TENNIS WTA CINCINNATI – There was no doubt that this match was going to be a battle. However, no one expected a war for this win. Ivanovic took the early lead only to see Sharapova fight back hard to serve for the match in the third. However, Ivanovic would not be denied the victory as she finally seized the match 6-2 5-7 7-5. Cordell Hackshaw
Anytime Maria Sharapova (5) and Ana Ivanovic (9) play each other, the matchup always receive top billing as they are two of the tour’s top fan favourites. The rivalry has been somewhat one-sided with Sharapova leading 8-3 including a 7-match win streak. Their last two matches in recent months have been very competitive with Ivanovic finally snapping the Sharapova win streak to take the last match in straight sets. There was no doubt that this match was going to be a battle. However, no one expected a war for this win. Ivanovic raced out to an almost unsurmountable lead with a set and double breaks in hand, 6-2 4-0 in the second set, only to see Sharapova fight back hard to serve for the match in the third. However, Ivanovic would not be denied the victory as she finally seized the match 6-2 5-7 7-5 to face world’s number 1, Serena Williams in the final. “Just so, so thrilled and happy to stay composed and fight until the last moment,” Ivanovic said.
Ivanovic could not have asked for a better start to the match. She broke Sharapova for a 3-1 and consolidated to lead 4-1. She had another break point in the 6th game but Sharapova fought it off for 2-4. However, when Ivanovic got another break opportunity at 5-2, she converted to close out the set 6-2 in 40 minutes. “I was just trying to play my game. Trying to step up and be aggressive and don’t rush. Against Maria you really have to try and push her off the court. If you give her opportunity she’s going to dictate the points,” Ivanovic said after the match. Sharapova looked out of sorts but her fans were hardly concerned considering her track record. The Russian, particularly as of late, finds herself down a set and a break and then finds the will to win. These mighty comebacks were on full display at the recent French Open where she completed this feat three times in a row to get to the final where she won her 2nd French title. As a matter of fact, in her last match, she staged another comeback against Simona Halep (2) in a similar fashion.
True to form, in the 2nd set, Sharapova was soon down 0-2. Traditionally, it was at this point that Sharapova would make her charge to assert herself back into the match. However, she went down another break and saw Ivanovic serving for a 6-2 5-0 lead. Surely Sharapova could not pull off this Houdini-like escape. Sharapova would later explain her predicament, “I think it was a combination of flat, just not executing what I want to from the beginning of the match, making a few too many errors.” The chains were too tight as Ivanovic was in total control up to this point. The Serbian soon relinquished her strangle hold on the match when she got distracted by bad call from the umpire who allowed a 30-40 point to be replayed. Sharapova only needed that slight opening to break for 1-4. She held serve to lessen the lead to 2-4. Ivanovic was clearly rattled but she scraped through her next service game for a 5-2 lead. Sharapova held serve for 3-5 and forced Ivanovic to serve for the match. Ivanovic crumbled. She was now the erratic player on court as she could not put together several quality points in a row. Sharapova on the other hand was simply lethal off the ground. Her groundstrokes were firing on both wings and Ivanovic was left scrambling. That 5-2 lead quickly dissipated as Sharapova reeled off five consecutive games for the set 7-5.
Ivanovic had to regroup but history showed that Sharapova does not lose these types of matches. Once a player allows her back into the match, she quickly pounces and dismantles the opponent in the decisive set. The momentum was swinging all the Russian’s way. However, the momentum may have tempered as in the 3rd game of the set, a game apiece 15-15, Ivanovic inexplicably stopped play and laboured over to her chair in seemingly excruciating pain. It was later explained that her heart was beating at an alarming rate and she needed to a break. However, Ivanovic stated in the press conference that she was “nauseous.” The doctor was quickly ushered on court. Ivanovic took some medication and lied down on court for a bit. It all seemed bizarre but Sharapova was not bothered as she took an early break for 2-1. Ivanovic broke back for 2-2 but got broken again. Sharapova consolidated for 4-2. Ivanovic then came on strong aided by some untimely double faults from Sharapova to level the set again at 4-4. The Russian would not be denied as she broke to serve out the match at 5-4.
The momentum which had swung decisively in either player’s direction earlier in the match was now going back and forth between them at lightening pace. With the match squarely on her racquet, Sharapova buckled as she double faulted three times in the game giving Ivanovic the chance to break after saving two match points. It was now 5-5 in the set with Ivanovic serving just as she was in the 2nd set. Last time, Ivanovic was unable to hold her serve and nerves but this time around she withstood the Sharapova surge to gain the edge at 6-5. Now for the third time in the match, Sharapova was serving to stay alive. Ivanovic was not going to let a third chance for the match go by as she returned Sharapova’s serves with interest; deep and heavy to the baseline. Sharapova showed rare signs of nerves as she was unable to handle the pressure. Two match points were now against here. She saved one but on the other. Ivanovic unleashed a mighty backhand crosscourt that Sharapova could not get back into play. The 2 hours and 45 minutes battle was finally over with Ivanovic the winner 6-2 5-7 7-5.
The match statistics were not pretty. Sharapova served at 63% winning 60% of her 1st serve points and 37% behind her 2nd serve. She was broken eight times and had nine double faults with seven of them coming in the 3rd set alone. Sharapova had 29 winners to 45 errors. Ivanovic numbers were hardly any better. She got 61% of her 1st serves in to win 62% of those points and only 47% on her 2nd serve. She had six double faults. The Serbian had 28 winners to 51 errors. However, a match like this is cannot be summed up by the number but by the intangibles. Who held it together when it really counted? Sharapova later noted, “I created myself a good position after having a slow start. I was down and out in the match and I found a way to get myself in a winning position. Today it didn’t work out for me. That’s really the headline of the whole story.” Ivanovic herself noted that she thought that she was going to lose the match after the lead but then “try to think fresh and have positive affirmations.” Ivanovic will face Williams for their 8th meeting. Williams is 6-1 head-to-head. Neither player has won this title before so there will be a lot of build up for this match.
Garbine Muguruza Reaches New Milestone As Swiatek Finds Her Groove At Australian Open
The two title contenders were in impressive form during their opening matches.
Third seed Garbine Muguruza extended her perfect run of first round wins at the Australian Open to 10 with a straightforward victory over France’s Clara Burel.
The former world No.1, who is yet to lose an opening match played at Melbourne Park in her career, required just under 90 minutes to see off Burel 6-3, 6-4. Muguruza broke her rival three consecutive times during the first set to win the opener in just over half an hour. Then in the second she eased to a 5-3 lead but failed to convert three match points. Muguruza was then broken in the following game before breaking back again to seal victory.
“It felt very good. I didn’t know really who I was facing. We’ve never played before,” Muguruza told reporters afterwards. “Very tricky. You’re always nervous going out there on Rod Laver, which I love, and starting a Grand Slam campaign.’
“I’m very happy the way I played and, of course, controlling the nerves.”
On what is the ninth anniversary of her Melbourne Park debut. Muguruza is hoping to go one step further than she did back in 2020 and win the title. She has now won 27 matches at the Australian Open which makes it her second most successful Grand Slam in terms of wins. Her best is the French Open where she has recorded 29 victories.
Muguruza will next take on another French player in the shape of Alize Cornet. During her on-court interview on Tuesday she was asked about her net play which the Spaniard said is a reflection of her on-court personality.
“It’s just a journey of adapting to your character,” she said. “I’m an aggressive player on the court and I like to dominate. I train like that. I’m not like that outside but inside the court I’m aggressive.”
Swiatek and her new coach
Another winner on day two was former French Open champion Iga Swiatek who swept aside Britain’s Harriet Dart 6-3, 6-0. At the start of the match she was trailing 1-3 before fighting back by winning 11 games in a row. The Pole is playing in her 12th Grand Slam main draw and is hoping to go beyond the fourth round in Australia for the first time in her career.
“You could see that first few games were pretty tricky for me. With the sun, I know I got broken in my second service game,” said Swiatek.
“I’m pretty happy that I was patient, I found the rhythm throughout the match. That’s pretty positive.”
Swiatek is in Melbourne with her new coach Tomasz Wiktorowski who is known for his previous work with Agnieszka Radwanska. She admits the new collaboration is very much a work in progress but believes she is heading in the right direction with her new mentor.
“He didn’t change a lot at the beginning because he was good to continue the process that I’ve had. Too many changes would be really confusing,” she said of Wiktorowski.
“We’re focusing on different stuff. We’re working on my strengths, which is great, because it’s going to give me confidence. I’m going to be able to be more, like, proactive on court. We were working on some attack formations and offensive game.’
“But we also didn’t have time to work on everything that we wanted to because there is a lot to improve in terms of my volleys and maybe slice.”
Swiatek will play Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson in the second round.
Petra Kvitova Links Lack Of Match Play, Health Issues To Australian Open Loss
The Czech reacts to her shock exit from Melbourne Park.
Former world No.2 Petra Kvitova has insisted that she still has the game to compete with the best players in the world after crashing out in the first round of the Australian Open on Tuesday.
Kvitova, who reached the final in Melbourne Park back in 2019, only managed to win four games during her 6-2, 6-2, loss to Sorana Cirstea. The Czech looked out of sorts on court as she hit a staggering 39 unforced errors compared to only seven winners. She also only managed to win 41% of her second service points and was broken four times in the match. It is the third time in Kvitova’s career she has lost in the first round at the Australian Open after 2014 and 2018.
“I don’t have much to say. It wasn’t really going my way the whole month. That’s how it is, I think. It’s a sport, and I just have to fight through and be better at it,” said Kvitova.
“I think that she (Cirstea) likes my game, she just is going to it and she has to risk, and everything (she hit) was in. I think for her I think it’s a little bit tougher when she has to create the game, and this time it was just there and putting fast balls back.”
Kvitova’s loss comes during what has been a lacklustre start to the season. Earlier this month at the Adelaide International she suffered a shock loss to world No.221 Priscilla Hon. A week later in Sydney she managed to reach the second round before losing to Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur who had to pull out of the Australian Open due to injury.
Despite her disappointing results on the Tour, the two-time Grand Slam champion is confident she will be able to turn her season around as she outlines two reasons behind her recent performances.
“I think it’s (my game) still there. It’s just I think I didn’t play a lot of matches at the beginning of this year,” she explained. “I did have some health issues the whole month, as well, so it was tough to practice during home month.’
“It wasn’t really as easy this beginning of the season, but the season is long, so I hope that it will turn around.”
Kvitova has won 28 WTA titles in her career with the last of those occurring in March 2021 at the Qatar Open. She is now on the verge of dropping out of the world’s top 20 for a second time this season.
“I think I need the matches on the other side,” she admits. “It’s really tough to see the future right now after this loss. I know I have to, first of all, calm down and see clearly more after some days.’
“I have to have a few days off to make my rest better, so that definitely will be one of the main goals, and then for sure some preparation before the next tournaments.”
As for Cirstea, she will play Kristína Kučová in the second round.
Coco Gauff Reacts To Shock Australian Open Exit
The American produced an error-stricken performance at Melbourne Park on Monday.
Coco Gauff says ‘everything’ about her latest performance disappointed her after she suffered a surprise first round loss at the Australian Open.
The world No.16 struggled to find her footing on court throughout her 6-4, 6-2, loss to China’s Wang Qiang. A player who didn’t play a single match after the Olympic Games last year and started this season with two consecutive first round defeats. It is the first time the 17-year-old has failed to go beyond the first round of a Grand Slam since the 2020 US Open.
“I think today I came into the match and the first couple of games, even though they were close, I was making more errors than I was used to,” Gauff said afterwards.
Gauff’s latest experience at Melbourne Park saw her hit a staggering 38 unforced errors compared to only 15 winners. She also struggled behind her second serve where she won just 45% of the points.
The defeat is a stark contrast to earlier this month when the rising star looked to be on track to generating momentum on the Tour. In Adelaide she led world No.1 Ash Barty by a set and a break before losing. A week on from that she reached the semi-finals of another event before losing to eventual champion Madison Keys.
“I think just everything disappointed me about today,” she said. “I feel like in the preseason, like I worked really hard, and I felt like I was ready to have a good run here. Today I just didn’t perform well.
“And I think learning-wise, I think there’s a lot to learn from. I think I didn’t play as free as I normally do today. I think I was playing a little bit tighter than normal. So I think next time coming into the first round of a slam, especially after a tough week before, I think I need to just play more free and focus on the moment.”
As Gauff is left to reflect on her performance, Wang is relishing her return to the winner’s circle. The 30-year-old has been ranked as high as 12th in the world and has won two WTA titles. In 2019 she reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.
“I lost two times against her last year so I just tried my best and focus on the court,” said Wang, who is coached by Pat Cash.
Wang will play Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck in the second round.
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