Upset and Surprise: Peng and Bencic make first major Quarterfinals - UBITENNIS
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Upset and Surprise: Peng and Bencic make first major Quarterfinals

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TENNIS US OPEN – As if the women’s draw could not get any more open, heavy rains washed away two more top. Both Jankovic and Safarova were dismissed in straight sets by opponents who were looking for their first ever quarterfinal appearance in a major. Jankovic lost to 17-year-old Belinda Bencic and Safarova to Shuai Peng. From New York, Cordell Hackshaw

 

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As if the women’s draw could not get any more open, heavy rains washed away two more top seeds by the end of Day 7 play. Both Jelena Jankovic (9) and Lucie Safarova (14) were dismissed in straight sets by opponents who were looking for their first ever quarterfinal appearance in a major. Jankovic lost to 17-year-old Belinda Bencic 6-7 3-6 and Safarova to Shuai Peng 3-6 4-6. The more experienced Jankovic looked to be in the driver’s seat in the first half of the match but in the end, the teenager was the one who played the big points like a tour veteran. Peng on the other hand took complete control of the match against Safarova from the get-go and never relinquished her hold.

With the heavy rains and lightening passed, Safarova and Peng matchup was moved to Court 5 from its originally slated venue on Grandstand. Peng raced out to 3-0 in the opening set before Safarova was able to get on the scoreboard. She knew the importance of the early lead as she lost to Safarova in their last four encounters. This lone break would be all Peng needed to stay ahead as she maintained the lead to take the set 6-3 in 35 minutes. Safarova would fail to convert on the single break point she saw in that set. Unfortunately for her, it would be the only break opportunity she would have for the entire match.

In the 2nd set, it would be more of the same. Peng broke early, in the 3rd game and held serve to take the win 6-3 6-4 in 71 minutes. Peng was clean and efficient throughout the match with 9 aces and 17 winners to 7 errors. Safarova was mostly steady but having made 21 errors particularly during those two service breaks, made her life very difficult. She was also unable to make any impact on Peng’s serve. “The last couple of times I was in the fourth round I would always lose to good players, like Maria and Kvitova, I had two match points against Radwanska once, and I went to a third set with Kirilenko and Pennetta. I didn’t win, but I got a lot of experience from those losses,” Peng said after the match.

However, the real golden story of the day is the surprise victory of Belinda Bencic over Jankovic. Jankovic came into this tournament in excellent shape and through her first three rounds here, she looked very much like the player who made the 2008 finals. With so many of the top seeds being dispersed, many imagined that Jankovic could make another run for the title. Bencic is also receiving much attention as she is coached by 5-time major champion Martina Hingis’s mother and former coach, Melanie Molitor. However, the Swiss teen is standing out in her own right as she has showed herself to be mentally tough through her last two rounds where she too like Peng, knocked out two seeded players.

Coming into this match, Jankovic was the only remaining player in the women’s draw who had not had her serve broken. However, after breaking Bencic to open the match, she could not consolidate and she was broken for the first time. Jankovic remained persistent and broke Bencic again to lead 3-1. Yet that previously impenetrable service came under serious attack by Bencic. Jankovic was broken two more times serving for the set at 5-4 and 6-5. Therefore, the set had to be decided by a tiebreak. Again, Jankovic took the early lead but could not maintain it. Bencic fought her way back to 6-5 and despite being unable to convert on her first set point, she did so on her second after 72 minutes; 7-66 Bencic.

In 2nd set, Jankovic’s concentration began to break down. She continued to let the missed opportunities in the 1st set linger. She was impatient and constantly gesturing in fits of agitation. Bencic continued to be aggressive on the big points and soon had a 4-2 lead. Serving to stay in the match at 3-5, Jankovic was broke for the 6th time to hand Bencic the win 7-6 6-3.

After the match, Bencic stated, “I definitely didn’t feel any pressure because it was my first time on the Arthur Ashe in the night session. So I really just tried to enjoy it. I think she had all the pressure because she needed to win.” Jankovic definitely cracked under the pressure particularly for an experienced player. More problematic for Jankovic was the fact that her serve had very little impact on Bencic. Jankovic was able to get 70% of her 1st serves in but only won 48% of the points and even less, 46%, on her 2nd serve. This gave Bencic numerous opportunities to break her and thus secure the win. Both Bencic and Peng will play for a chance at a first major semifinal.

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Leylah Fernandez Overcomes Pavlyuchenkova To Reach Indian Wells Fourth Round

It was a tough day at the office for the US Open runner-up.

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Leylah Fernandez (Darren Carroll/USTA)

Leylah Fernandez pulled off one of her famous comebacks in the Californian desert beating the number nine seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 41 minutes.

 

The Canadian hit 24 winners in the win while the Russian hit 46 unforced errors in a match that went back and forth before Fernandez was able to pull through in the end.

“What I am most proud of is the way that I fought and honestly today wasn’t my best performance,” Fernandez said afterwards. “But I fought for every point and I was trying to figure things out. I was proud I was able to find a way to get back in the match and get the win”.

After holding serve in her opening service game the world number 28 started putting the pressure right away on the Russian by getting two early break points but failed to convert.

At 3-3, it was Fernandez facing the pressure on her serve and the world number 13 had four looks at a breakpoint. On the fourth the Canadian cracked and double-faulted for the first break of serve of the match.

The Russian lead didn’t last long as the Canadian responded right away in the following game and the next four games went with breaks of serve as both players were struggling to hold serve.

Pavlyuchenkova eventually served for the set at 6-5 and was able to serve it out to take a 7-5 lead.

Pavlyuchenkova carried the momentum into the second set and broke Fernandez’s serve in the first game of the set but at 2-1 got broken once again and the set went back on serve.

It stayed on serve until 4-3 when Fernandez managed to get the crucial break of serve and that was enough for her to serve out the second set.

The first four games of the third set went on serve and at 2-2 again it was the Montreal native earning a breakpoint and breaking once again and despite facing pressure from the Russian was able to serve out the match.

After the match in her on-court interview, Fernandez was asked about all the support she has been getting recently and what it means to her to play on such a big stage.

“I got goosebumps,’ she said. “I was super excited to play here in Indian Wells for the first time and to play in a stadium where so many legends played who fought and won so it’s an honor to be here. I can’t wait to play my next match”.

Fernandez will next face the American Shelby Rogers in the round of 16 on Tuesday after she beat the Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 6-0, 6-2.

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Bianca Andreescu Begins Indian Wells Title Defense With Rollercoaster win

The Canadian began her title defense from 2019 with a three-set win over her American opponent.

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Reigning Indian Wells champion Bianca Andreescu is into the third round after a epic two-hour and 48 battle with Alison Riske which she eventually won 7-6, 5-7, 6-2.

 

” I’m very happy to be back and I felt all the emotions coming back here to Indian Wells, especially stepping on this court and it honestly feels awesome”. Said Andreescu.

The Toronto native fired 30 winners in a match that went back and forth in the last match on Stadium court.

The first set stayed on serve until 2-2 when it was the Canadian with the first two chances of the match to break and she was able to get the first break of serve in the match but failed to consolidate and Riske broke back the following game.

Andreescu had another chance at 3-3 but was snuffed by the world number 51 and the first set was decided by a tiebreaker. In that breaker, the number 16 seed jumped out to a 4-2 lead which was enough to take the first set.

After holding in her opening service game the Canadian had three chances for an early break in the second set but the American was able to save all three and held serve.

At 2-1, the world number 21 had two more chances and with a return winner on double break point she took a 3-1 lead and this time was able to consolidate the break and hold serve.

At 4-2, the world number 51 attempted a comeback and after earning two breakpoints of her own broke back to put the set back on serve but at 5-4 the Canadian had two match points but the American saved both.

At 5-5, Riske had two more breakpoints and managed to get the crucial break of serve and serve out the second set to send it to a deciding third set.

The number 16 seed was keen on getting the early lead in the third set and she did just that to take a 2-0 lead and at 4-1 managed to turn her break into a double break and served out the match.

After the match in her on-court interview, Andreescu was asked what had happened in the second set and how she was able to respond in the third set.

” She played very well, I honestly had no idea what happened and she picked up her level while I kinda stayed the same,” she said. “Then I had to refocus for the third set and I had to change my tactics a little bit and it helped”.

Andreescu is now lifetime 8-0 in Indian Wells dating back to 2019 when she won and is still the current defending champion. She will take that record into her next match where she will face Anett Kontaveit.

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Aryna Sabalenka Out Of Indian Wells After Positive COVID Test

Sabalenka is the latest player to be ruled out of a tournament after testing positive for the virus.

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Aryna Sabalenka returns a shot during a Women's Doubles quarterfinal match at the 2021 US Open, Tuesday, Sep. 7, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Darren Carroll/USTA)

World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka says she is ‘looking OK’ after confirming she has tested positive for COVID-19.

 

The Belarussian was set to be the top seed at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells which will get underway next week after Ash Barty withdrew from the draw. It is not known as to if Sabalenka is currently experiencing any symptoms at present or when exactly she tested positive for the virus. She hasn’t played on the Tour since reaching the semi-finals of the US Open last month.

Unfortunately I’ve tested positive at Indian Wells and won’t be able to compete,” Sabalenka wrote in an Instagram story.
“I’ve started my isolation and I’ll be staying here until I’m cleared by the doctors and health officials.
“So far I’m looking OK but really sad to not be able to play this year.”

It is unclear if the 23-year-old has received a COVID vaccination after she previously expressed caution over receiving one. During the Miami Open in March Sabalenka told reporters she was concerned about how quickly the vaccine has been produced and the effects it might have on her body.

“So far I don’t really trust it. It’s tough to say, but I don’t really want mine yet, actually, and I don’t want my family have it,” she said. “I will think about this. I mean, if I will have to do it, then of course I have to do it, because our life is a travel life and I think we are the ones who actually should make it. But I will see.”

In recent months tennis’ governing bodies have been urging their players to get vaccinated but some such as Sabalenka are still hesitant. On the other hand, two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka has previously called for the vaccine to be made mandatory on the Tour.

So far this season Sabalenka has achieved a win-loss record of 42-14 and has reached the semi-finals at her two most recent Grand Slam tournaments (Wimbledon and the US Open). She has won two titles in Abu Dhabi at the start of the season and then Madrid in May. Sabalenka also reached the final of another tournament in Stuttgart.

Replacing Sabalenka as the top seed in Indian Wells will be Karolina Pliskova who is a two-time semi-finalist in the tournament.

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