TENNIS FRENCH OPEN – No one ever discounts Maria Sharapova’s tenacity. In fact, one can say that she has taken her tenacity to the third power. For the third straight match, Sharapova came back from dropping the opening set. In doing so, she has moved into her third consecutive French Open final. This time around, her opponent was be the young Canadian starlet, Eugenie Bouchard and Sharapova won the match 4-6 7-5 6-2. Cordell Hackshaw
No one ever discounts Maria Sharapova’s tenacity but one can hardly overlook the fact that this year’s French Open is showing her to be taking that doggedness to another degree. In fact, one can say that she has taken her tenacity to the third power. For the third straight match, Sharapova (7) came back from dropping the opening set to win in three sets. In doing so, she has moved into her third consecutive French Open final. This time around, her opponent was be the young Canadian starlet, Eugenie Bouchard (18) and Sharapova won the match 4-6 7-5 6-2 in about two and a half hours. Sharapova spoke of her comebacks; “You put so much effort, you and your team, to get to this position. If some things are not working out…when you lose the first set or a few games or you’re down a break, that’s not the end of the match. That’s the type of philosophy that I play with.”
As in the two previous matches, Sharapova’s opponent broke her first. Bouchard broke Maria in the 3rd game and consolidated the break with a hold to go up 3-1. Sharapova had an easy hold to keep the gap close and then gave herself chances to break Bouchard’s serve. However, Bouchard showed herself ready for the challenge as she saved two break points to stay ahead 4-2. Sharapova would break Bouchard to level it at 4-4 and served for a 5-4 lead but her serving inconsistencies continued as she soon down triple break points. She was able to save one of them but a brilliant backhand crosscourt winner saw Bouchard now with the 5-4 lead, serving for set. It was whilst serving for this set that Bouchard exhibited signs that she is something special and a future contender for major titles. She stood toe to toe with Sharapova, saving break point to hold onto her serve and take the 1st set 6-4.
Sharapova is not one to go down without a fight and rarely does she lose to young upstarts. She was firing on all cylinders at the start of the 2nd set. Bouchard on the hand came out rather panicky as though she were the one trailing in the match. Sharapova quickly held serve and broke Bouchard who was leaking errors all over the place. She was even missing simple put aways. However, she would settle down to break Sharapova in the 3rd game and led 40-0 to get even at 2-2. Bouchard fell apart once again and became inconsistent on her shots. Sharapova continued her assault to get back into this match as lead 5-2 and force Bouchard to serve to stay in the set.
Bouchard held serve and then became super offensive against Sharapova who was serving for the set at 5-3. Bouchard would deny Sharapova set points in this 9th game and broke the Russian. Bouchard held serve to get to 5-5. Sharapova calm as ever, took the 11th game with relative ease and forced Bouchard once again to serve to stay in the set. It was at this moment that Sharapova really showed her true grit. Whilst serving yet again to stay in the set, Bouchard found herself down 15-40 and though one of the set points was saved, Sharapova would not let another go by as she took the set 7-5.
As in her two previous matches, Sharapova dropped the 1st set, gave her opponents legitimate chances to take her out in straights and when they failed to do so, she took the 2nd set for herself, and became almost unplayable in the 3rd set. Sharapova virtually ran away with it against Bouchard as she led 5-2 and for good measure broke Bouchard again to take the match 4-6 7-5 6-2. Bouchard would not even see a break point on the Sharapova serve in the 3rd set. “I don’t feel that I played my best tennis today, but to be in the semifinals of a Grand Slam and winning a match where I felt my opponent played extremely well, exceptional tennis and I didn’t feel that I was playing my best, I fought, I scrambled, and I found a way to win. I’m happy and proud about that,” Sharapova said after the match.
Bouchard had this to say about her performance in the match: “[I]t was a tough battle, which is what I expected…[T]he whole match I didn’t play as well as I have played earlier in the tournament…I think I might have maybe backed off a little bit on my shots in the second and third…I just maybe wasn’t finishing well in the second and third as much.” Bouchard had looks, chances and great opportunities to take this match but failed to execute at these key moments. The Canadian committed 48 errors for the match, 35 of which were in the last two sets. Her service game was not reliable as she barely got cheap points off it. She was only winning 59% on the first serve and 41% on the second. Sharapova on the other hand despite being very inconsistent and double faulting at inopportune times, was winning 75% of her first serve points and 41% on her second. Sharapova will face Simona Halep (4) in the final on Saturday, a player she recently beat in another 3-set comeback last month in Madrid. The Russian is looking for her 2nd French title in three years as well as her 5th major title overall. With her efforts here in Paris over the past two weeks, very few doubt that she would achieve this career milestone, even if she is a set and two breaks down.
“It was crazy” – Kaia Kanepi Ousts Australian Open Second Seed Aryna Sabalenka In An Epic
The Estonian is through to the last eight at Melbourne Park for the first time in her career.
World number 115 Kaia Kanepi produced one of the shocks of the tournament to send Aryna Sabalenka crashing out.
The 36-year-old Estonian saw three match points come and go but prevailed in the super tie-break to seal it; 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (10-7).
Through to the quarter finals for the first time in her career, she will face Poland’s Iga Świątek. The 2020 French Open champion saw off Sorana Cîrstea in three sets.
The first set saw power tennis from both players out on Margaret Court Arena.
Kanepi held serve right up till 5-5, when Sabalenka turned the screw.
The Belarussian was pushed to deuce on her own service game but did enough to edge ahead.
She then applied enough pressure, opening up three break-points and only needing one, took the first set 7-5.
But the veteran Estonian roared back in the second set, nailing a huge break of serve to go 1-0 ahead.
Kanepi secured the double break, soon steaming ahead at 4-0 and eventually pocketed the set 6-2.
The 23-year-old from Minsk was beginning to look jaded in the deciding set, as Kanepi took an immediate break of serve.
She soon went 4-2 ahead but Sabalenka fought back for 4-4, as the set went back on serve.
Kanepi got the decisive break to move 5-4 ahead and serve for the match.
Nerves got to the Estonian, however, as Sabalenka saved four match points.
Three times at deuce, and on her third break point, Sabalenka levelled the set for 5-5.
Both players held serve, under enormous pressure, to send the match to a super tie-break.
Kanepi surged into a 5-2 lead but Sabalenka played clutch to level at 5-5.
It was soon 7-7, but the pressure got to Sabalenka, and Kanepi won three straight points to win the biggest match of her career.
Kanepi said she was shocked to have won. “Actually, I thought I was going to lose it after the match points I had on my serve.”
“It was really difficult to come back. I don’t know how I managed to do it.
“I was really tight. My hand was shaking when I started serving. I didn’t make any first serves in, and that added to the pressure. It was crazy.”
Iga Swiatek Edges Past Resilient Cirstea For Maiden Australian Open Quarter-Final
Iga Swiatek is into her first Australian Open Quarter-Final after a tough win over Sorana Cirstea.
Iga Swiatek edged past Sorana Cirstea 5-7 6-3 6-3 in 2 and a half hours to reach her first Australian Open Quarter-Final.
The former Roland Garros champion survived a mammoth match against a powerful Cirstea to reach the last eight in Melbourne for the first time.
Swiatek was emotional after the match as she revealed the stress was bigger than her previous matches.
The Pole awaits Aryna Sabalenka or Kaia Kanepi in the last eight.
It was the Romanian who had the more aggressive start as she powered returns past Swiatek and tested the Pole’s defensive skills in the early exchanges.
After a valiant effort from Swiatek, Cirstea eventually broke and gained an early 2-0 lead.
The Pole had to save break point with some big serving and powerful groundstrokes to avoid the double break deficit.
However once Swiatek found her rhythm, she started to anticipate the Romanian’s power plays better and create space on the court for more aggressive tennis of her own.
Cirstea played big tennis on the big points as she save three break points in the fourth game for a crucial 3-1 lead.
Swiatek gained more consistent power and variety as the set went on with the former Roland Garros champion becoming more comfortable on serve.
Eventually the Pole’s mixture of defensive solidity and consistent, regular power earned its rewards as she broke back for 4-4 in the opening set.
However that didn’t intimidate the Romanian, who had already beaten Petra Kvitova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at this tournament, as she continued to pound the winners on return.
Cirstea’s improved aggression especially on the big points continued to pay off as she saved set point in the tenth game to hold before breaking to love to seal a 6-5 lead.
Too many errors from Swiatek who couldn’t match the physical game style of Cirstea as the Romanian closed out the opening set 7-5.
In the second Swiatek and Cirstea traded breaks as the Pole was beginning to play smart tennis and trying to expose the Romanian’s short balls whenever they came.
The Pole’s unique offense took advantage of Cirstea’s relatively conservative second serves and on her third break point broke for a 4-2 lead in a long game.
Despite the consistent power from the Romanian there was no clinical edge to her game in the second set as Swiatek won all the big points to level the match at one set all.
This physical and mental rollercoaster of a match would have plenty more twists and turns yet as both players produced red-hot tennis in the deciding set.
Arguably the game that decided the match was the fourth game where Cirstea used a lot of energy to power past Swiatek’s stubborn defence and push for the break.
Swiatek’s resilience was crucial as she saved four break points to hold for 2-2. The Pole would then break for a 3-2 lead as Cirstea’s serve was not as effective as the opening two sets.
Although Cirstea broke back, Swiatek’s returning was at a higher level and her all-court power saw her reel off two consecutive breaks to love to seal a crucial win.
Tears from Swiatek at the end as relief and emotion was a result of a mentally and physically demanding match that takes her to a first Australian Open quarter-final. After the match the Pole admitted it was a stressful match, “I feel like she was really putting pressure on, returning in front of the baseline she was playing as fast as my serve was. I just had to be on my toes,” the Pole said in her on-court interview.
“I feel that my stress level was higher than the previous. For me a week without crying is not a week!”
Swiatek will now play second seed Aryna Sabalenka or Kaia Kanepi in the last eight on Wednesday.
Victoria Azarenka Cruises Past Svitolina To Reach Australian Open Fourth Round
The former champion produced a ruthless display to book her place in the last 16.
Victoria Azarenka is through to the fourth round of the Australian Open after beating 15th seed Elina Svitolina 6-0, 6-2 in 67 minutes.
Facing a top 20 player at Melbourne Park for the first time since 2016, the world No.25 hit 17 winners and four aces in the win. Azarenka, who is one of only eight active players to have won more than 100 Grand Slam main draw matches, improving her record against Ukrainian players to 16-1.
“I thought I was really well-executing my game plan. I wanted to put as much pressure as I could on her and kind of not let her come into the match,” said Azarenka. “She’s an amazing fighter. I know if I give her a little room, she’s going to get back out there. That was my purpose today, and I think I executed that well.”
It was the number 24 seed with the better start to the match and ashe played aggressively from the word go. Earning three chances to break in the very first game and broke to take an early 1-0 lead. After consolidating the break, Azarenka was hungry for more and she got another chance to go up a double break and broke once again with a stunning forehand winner.
at 4-0, the Belorussian continued to dominate and broke Svitolina’s serve once more this time with a backhand winner down the line before serving out the first set to take it 6-0 in 25 minutes flat.
The first game of the second set was a carbon copy of the opening of the first set with Azarenka breaking once again to take a 1-0 lead and it stayed on serve until 4-2 when the number 24 seed went up a double break to lead 5-2.
The last game was a long affair with the Ukrainian starting to find her game and it went back and forth with the Belorussian looking to seal the win while Svitolina pushed back to stay alive.
It took six match points and saving three break points before Azarenka was able to serve it out and take the win. She will now face Barbora Krejickova who defeated Jelena Ostapenko 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
“The rise of Barbora has been pretty incredible over the last year and a half, basically since COVID. She seems to kind of elevate her game more and more. She has all the good tools to play,” the two-time champion said of her next oponent.
“She can play aggressive, she can mix it up. A very dangerous player. We played once in Ostrava. It was pretty tight match and really good quality.” She added.
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