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Serena and Halep win WTA Championships openings

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TENNIS WTA CHAMPIONSHIPS – Serena Williams started her WTA Championships run with a solid win over Ana Ivanovic with a double 6-4, Simona Halep left five games to Eugenie Bouchard.

 

The world number one needed a full test of her conditions to overcome a very positive Ivanovic, but the Serb lacked of consistency when it most mattered, handing both the sets with errors on break points.

Williams showed to be no longer troubled by the knee problems that hampered her post-US Open season and for long put her in doubt for this event. On the contrary, she showed a great physical shape and full control of her great power, as well as some awesome defences. Her serve was also key, she served 12 aces against only four double faults.

The seventh seed, however, showed how her form translated well to these indoor conditions and, most definitely, she is still in the battle to pass the group stage, in spite of the loss. She served very well, apart from the two final games of both sets, including three consecutive service games held to love in the second set.

Halep had a much easier job in the match of first-timers at the WTA Championships. She looked nervous, but nothing compared to Bouchard, who looked absolutely overwhelmed by the situation.

Despite the head-to-head was tied with both matches having been played during 2014, there was little contest between the two today and the Romanian flew easily away in both sets.

Having been challenged very rarely on her serve, Halep could put all the pressure on the Canadian’s service games, which paid off immediately.

In the second set, only the inability of the Roland Garros finalist to widen the gap kept Bouchard close in the score, but in reality the result never looked particularly about to change.

Tomorrow, the White Group will play its first matches.

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Australian Open Women’s Draw: Ash Barty And Naomi Osaka On Course For Fourth Round Showdown

The two Grand Slam winners have been drawn in the same section. Meanwhile, US Open champion Emma Raducanu has bveen handed a tough opening match.

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Ashleigh Barty (AUS) Credit: AELTC/Florian Eisele

Ash Barty’s bid to become the first home player to win the Australian Open women’s title in more than 40 years could see her square off with the reigning champion before the second week.

 

The two-time Grand Slam champion is the top seed in Melbourne for the third consecutive year. She will begin her campaign against a qualifier but it is later in the first week where she will be firmly tested. Should all go according to the seedings, Barty will take on Naomi Osaka in the fourth round. The two haven’t played each other on the Tour since 2019 with their head-to-head split at two wins each.

Osaka, who is seeded 13th in the draw, will start her campaign against Colombia’s Camila Osorio who won her maiden WTA title last year. She has been placed in a section with plenty of dangerous players surrounding her. Should she beat Osorio, she will take on either Madison Brengle or Dayana Yastremska who can push the Japanese star if they produce their best tennis. Then Olympic champion Belinda Bencic and former French Open semi-finalist Amanda Anisimova are her potential third round opponents. Osaka is seeking to win her third Australian Open title this year.

Aryna Sabalenka leads the bottom section of the draw as she aims to get back some form. The Belrussian has lost her opening matches at two tournaments already this year with her serve being problematic. According to OptaAce, Sabalenka has made 74 double faults in her four most recent matches played. She will start her Melbourne bid against wildcard Storm Saunders. In her section she could play Markéta Vondroušová in the third round followed by either Angelique Kerber and Leylah Fernandez.

WTA Finals champion Garbine Muguruza will be bidding to go one place better than her run to the final two years ago. The Spaniard will play France’s Clara Burel in the first round and has been drawn in the same section as Simona Halep. Meaning the two former Grand Slam winners could clash in the fourth round.

Reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu will take on another former winner at Flushing Meadows in the shape of Sloane Stephens. The Brit is playing in the main draw at Melbourne for the first time in her career and is seeded 17th. She is in the same section as Muguruza and Halep, who she may both have to play if she wishes to reach the second week.

Elsewhere barbora krejcikova will start against Andrea Petkovic, Maria Sakkari takes on Tatjana Maria and Anett Kontaveit faces Katerina Siniakova.

The Australian Open will begin on Monday.

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Garbine Muguruza Overcomes Anxiety, Ons Jabeur Overcomes Kvitova In Sydney

The two top 10 stars are playing in their first tournament of 2022.

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Garbine Muguruza (image via https://twitter.com/WTA_insider)

Garbine Muguruza has started her 2022 season in the same way as she ended her previous one – by winning a match.

 

The two-time Grand Slam champion edged her way past Russian world No.40 Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-1, 7-6 (4), to reach the last eight at the Sydney Tennis Classic. Muguruza is playing in her first tournament since winning the WTA Finals last November. Against Alexandrova, the Spaniard won 70% of her service points and broke her opponent three times.

Although the encounter wasn’t entirely plain-sailing for Muguruza who was forced to fight in the second frame where she was down a break and then had to save five set points to prevent the match going into a decider. Despite the scare, she raced towards the finish line in the tiebreak by winning six out of the first seven points played. She sealed the victory on her fourth match point opportunity with the help of an Alexandrova unforced error.

I was most pleased that I stood very calmly in the second set when I was, you know, 5-4 down and serving and having all those set points, where you can get a little bit upset,” Muguruza said afterwards.
“So to manage the anxiety, playing the first match of the year and you want to win and you want to start on the right foot.
“The last match was two months ago so it’s been a while.”

This week the 28-year-old is seeking her 11th WTA title and first on Australian soil since 2014. Last year she won three Tour titles within the same season for the first time in her career.

Muguruza will next take on Russia’s Daria Kasatkina who is enjoying a strong start to hear season. After dropping just four games against eighth seed Sofia Kenin in her opening match, Kasatkina defeated Elise Mertens 6-3, 6-4, on Wednesday.

One Jabeur is also through to the quarter-finals after recording her first-ever win over Petra Kvitova. The Tunisian had never won a set against Kvitova in their three previous meetings but managed to prevail 6-4, 6-4. Jabeur came back from a break down in both sets to register her 110th win on the WTA Tour.

Finally, after so many losses against her,” said Jabeur. “It’s not easy to return those powerful shots, but I’ve been prepared and I really wanted to win. So I went for it.
“I learned from my losses against her, especially the last one in Cincinnati. To be honest, I’m glad that the court wasn’t super fast. It kind of helped me a little bit.”

Awaiting Jabeur in the next round will be the dangerous Anette Kontaveit who ended last year by winning four titles within a three-month period. The Estonian dropped just four games during her 6-3, 6-1, win over Romanian player Elena-Gabriela Ruse.

Finally, French Open champion Barbora Krejčíková, who is the third seed in the draw, started her campaign by dismissing Jaqueline Cristian 6-1, 7-5. She will next player Caroline Garcia who was handed a walkover after Elena Rybakina withdrew from the tournament due to a thigh injury.

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Lackluster Aryna Sabalenka Crashes Out Of Adelaide

For the second week in a row the world No.2 has lost her opening match as she continues to struggle with her serve.

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Aryna Sabalenka (Darren Carroll/USTA)

Aryna Sabalenka’s preperation for the Australian Open has suffered another blow after she crashed out of the Adelaide International 2 on Tuesday.

 

For the second week in a row the world No.2 significantly struggled with her serve as she fell 5-7, 6-1, 7-5, to Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson. Throughout the match Sabalenka only managed to win 29% of her second service points (13/45) and produced a staggering 21 double faults errors. She also produced more than 50 unforced errors.

During parts of the match Sabalenka struggled to keep the ball in court as her serves went either long or failed to get over the next. Midway through the third set the umpire even checked to see if she was experiencing any kind of physical issue. Something which Sabalenka swiftly dismissed.

“This is my problem, this is my technical problem. I cannot serve, like, better. This is not what you’re thinking about,” she replied.

After being asked if she was ok, the 23-year-old then broke down in tears during her next service game. Afterwards, her opponent Peterson described their encounter as the ‘weirdest’ match she had ever played.

“It was the weirdest match I’ve ever played. It was tough staying in there, I know she was struggling a lot,” said the Swedish qualifier.
“To be in my own world, it was really difficult.

Two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist Sabalenka is yet to win a match this season. Last week in the first Adelaide tournament she fell to Kaja Juvan with her serve also proving problematic. On that occasion she produced 18 double faults during her straight sets loss.

As for Peterson, she will play America’s Maidison Brengle in the second round later this week. Brengle, who has been ranked as high as 35th in the world, defeated Russian qualifier Anastasia Potapova 7-5, 4-6, 6-1.

Also through to the second round is fourth seed Tamara Zidanšek who survived a marathon clash against Heather Watson. The world No.31 was down 1-3 in the final set before fighting back to defeat the Brit 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(4). Finally, seventh seed Liudmila Samsonova beat Egypt’s Mayar Sherif 7-6(2), 6-4.

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