TENNIS AO2015 – Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova will square off against tomorrow in a eagerly-awaited Australian Open final. It will be the first time since Justine Henin beat her compatriot Kim Cljisters in a all-Belgian clash in 2004 that both the top two players will meet in the Australian Open final. This is the fourth Grand Slam final between the World Number 1 and Number 2 players since 2004. Serena and Maria clashed in the 2013 Roland Garros when they were ranked Number 1 and Number 2. The other Grand Slam final between the top two players was played between Serena Williams and Vika Azarenka at the 2013 US Open. Diego Sampaolo
Serena and Maria will meet for the 19th time in their careers. Serena leads 16-2 in their previous matches. Maria has not beat her US rival since 2004 when the then-17 year-old Russian player scored her two only wins in the Wimbledon final and in the WTA Championships Final in Los Angeles. Since then Serena has won their last 15 clashes, 12 of them in straight set. The last time they met Serena beat Maria 6-4 6-3 in the Miami semifinal.
Serena will play her sixth Australian Open singles final and the first since 2010 with a winning record of 5-0.
“I think her power and aggressiveness has always made me a little bit too aggressive, maybe going for a little bit more than I had to. She is great at making players hit that shot that you don’t necessarily have to go for, maybe going for a little too much, going for the line. It’s been a difficult match-up for me but I am a competitor. I will go out and I will do everything I can to change that result around”, said Sharapova explain the reason why Serena is such a tough rival to beat.
Serena beat Garbine Muguruza in the Round of 16, last year’s Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova in the quarter final, US teenager Madison Keys in the semifinal to qualify for the final. Serena recovered from a slow start when she went down a break in the opening set of the first set. Keys, who was playing her first Grand Slam semifinal, held serve for 2-0 before pulling away to 3-1. Williams broke back before winning the tie-break after 45 minutes. Williams pulled away to a 5-1 lead but Keys fended off seven match points and held her serve for 2-5. The US teenager saved the eighth match point but Williams hit her 13th ace of the match on the ninth match point to close out the match with 7-6 6-2.
Maria won the all-Russian semifinal against her compatriot Ekaterina Makarova, who was playing her second consecutive Grand Slam semifinal after the US Open last September. Maria raced to 3-0 and 4-1 leads but Ekaterina broke back to claw her way into the match for 4-3. Maria reeled off six consecutive games to pull away to 6-3 4-0 in the second set. Both players held their serve until the end before Sharapova clinched the win with 6-3 6-2 to qualify for her 10th Grand Slam final. With her semifinal Makarova will return to the top-10 after the Australian Open (she is projected at Number 9).
In the previous rounds Sharapova beat Zarina Diyas in the Round of 32, Peng Shuai in the Round of 16 and Eugenie Bouchard in the quarter final. She has a record of 5-4 in her previous Major finals. Only Serena and Venus Williams achieved 10 or more Grand Slam finals.
The two big stars of the circuit are the only two active players who achieved the Career Grand Slam. The other four players who managed to win all the four Majors in their careers were Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf.
If Serena wins, she will become the second best player in history with 19 Grand Slam titles behind Steffi Graf who won 22 Majors. Before tomorrow’s final Serena is tied in second place with 18 wins alongside Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. Maria is currently tied in 11th place with Martina Hingis
Serena is bidding to win the only Grand Slam title she has not clinched since her lay-off due to injury problems between July 2010 and June 2011 Maria is bidding to win her sixth Grand Slam after Wimbledon 2004, the US Open in 2006, the Australian Open in 2008 and the Roland Garros twice in 2012 and 2014.
Serena has won 21 of her last 22 matches against top-10 players. Since the start of the 2014 US Open final she lost only against a top 10 Simona Halep in the round robin of the 2014 WTA Championships in Singapore.
Serena is the first US player to reach the Australian Open since she clinched her fifth title in 2010. Maria was the last Russian player to play the final at the Australian Open in 2012 when she finished runner-up-
Williams lifted five Australian Open singles titles in 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010, the most in the Open Era ahead of Margaret Court, who won four Australian Open titles in the Open Era in 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1973.
Maria will be looking to beat a World Number 1 player for the eighth time in her career after defeating Lindsay Davenport (twice), Amelie Mauresmo, Justine Henin, Caroline Wozniacki and Vika Azarenka twice.
Maria will be looking to win her first Grand Slam title from match point down. She had to fend off two match points in the second round against World Number 150 Alexandra Panova. Only four players managed to win a Major title after saving match points during the tournament. They were Monica Seles, Jennifer Capriati, Serena Williams twice and Li Na last year.
Both Sharapova and Williams are unbeaten on tour so far in 2015. Maria beat Ana Ivanovic in the Brisbane final and enters the final with a 11-0 record. Serena warmed up for the Australian Open with exhibition matches at the Hopman Cup where she lost against Eugenie Bouchard and Agnieszka Radwanska but boasts a 6-0 record at the Australian Open.
Williams is looking to win her 100th career win against top-5 players. Sharapova has a 7-13 record against world number 1 players.
Sharapova has won her last five tour finals and suffered her last defeat in the final of the 2013 Roland Garros. Williams has won her last ten finals and lost her last final in Cincinnati in 2013. Williams becomes the oldest player to reach the women’s singles final at the Australian Open in the Open Era. Chris Evert held the previous record when she reached the final in 1988 losing to Steffi Graf.
Serena will be looking to win the US Open and the Australian Open back-to-back for the third time after 2003 and 2009. Only Steffi Graf achieved the feat to win the two tournaments back-to-back three times in 1989, 1990 and 1994.
Karolina Pliskova Faces Race Against Time To Be Fit For French Open
The Czech has less than a week to recover from a thigh problem before the next Grand Slam gets underway.
World No.4 Karolina Pliskova says she is ‘hopeful’’ that she will be ready in time to play at the French Open after suffering a setback in her preparations on Monday.
The Czech tennis star was forced to retire during her clash with Simona Halep in the final of the Italian Open after falling behind 0-6, 1-2. During the match she wore tape on her left thigh and also has work done on her back during a medical time out. However, Pliskova said afterwards that the issue was her thigh and playing a series of matches within a short period.
“I think it’s a combination of just playing every day and tough matches. Of course I played some two-set matches, but it’s still clay, which I was coming to play on quite fast from the hard court’s. There is a lot of sliding and running,” said Pliskova.
Due to the Tour being stopped by the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year players are playing a more compact schedule with two Grand Slams taking place within a month. Only 14 days separates the last day of the US Open from the first day of the French Open.
Despite her injury, 28-year-old Pliskova is optimistic that she will be able to play at Roland Garros with her first match possibly taking place on Sunday. She is a former semi-finalist in Paris back in 2017 but has lost in the third round two consecutive times since then. Overall her main draw record at the tournament stands at 11 wins against eight losses.
“I hope to be ready, there is a week so I think that’s plenty of time,” she said.
“I know I might play on Sunday in Paris but there are a couple days which I hope is gonna help a lot.
“I really want to be100% ready because if I want to go far in a Grand Slam. It’s going to be, like, two weeks of tennis, which I’m not sure today I can do. I just need to see what the doctors say,”
One of Pliskova’s biggest rivals at the major will be former champion Halep who has won back-to-back clay court titles within the past month. The Romanian is now in a 14-match winning streak and has reached the quarter-finals of better at every single tournament she has played in so far this year. The Czech believes her rival is the key contenders to lift the French Open trophy this year.
“Now she’s won two tournaments on clay, so I think she’s confident enough and she’s done well there,” Pliskova said. “She’s going to be dangerous.
“And she had big success in Paris, so I think she’s going to be one of my favourites to go for the title.”
Pliskova will be the second seed at Roland Garros.
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.
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.
Maturing Simona Halep Closing In On Rome Milestone
The Romanian is hoping that it will be third time lucky at the Foro Italico this year.
Top seed Simona Halep survived a roller-coaster encounter against Spain’s Garbine Muguruza to progress to the final of the Italian Open on Sunday.
The world No.2 required more than two hours to disposed of Muguruza 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, in what was the seventh meeting between the two Grand Slam champions on the WTA Tour. It was a far from straightforward win for the Romanian who lost her serve three consecutive times during the second set. However, she managed to bounce back in the decider with the help of a four-game winning streak as she edged towards victory despite facing some late resistance.
“Against Muguruza she’s a very, very difficult player and a good player. It’s always good vibe and a good feeling when I win against her,” Halep told reporters after.
“I know I had so many chances to maybe finish the match a little bit faster and easier, but she doesn’t give up.’
“Credit to her that she fought till the end. I am happy that I was a little bit stronger in the end and I could be more aggressive when I needed to.”
There is still room for improvement for Halep who won only 48% of her service points and converted nine out of her 18 break point opportunities. She also hit 21 winners alongside 22 unforced errors.
The latest victory was the first singles match at this year’s Italian Open to take place in front of fans. Due to a recent decision by the local government, a maximum of 1000 spectators has been allowed to attend the Foro Italico on its last two days. A move that has been hailed by Halep even though she admits that it was her opponent who was getting more cheers.
“It’s been nice to see people in the crowd, even if they were all not supporting me today. They were with Muguruza, but I understand,” she said.
“But I was happy to see them and I felt the energy.”
Halep now moves into her third Rome final where she will have a shot of achieving a unique milestone of winning three major clay events on the WTA Tour along with the French Open and Madrid Open. Something only Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova have achieved.
Standing in her way of the title will be the winner of the all-Czech clash between Karolina Pliskova or Markéta Vondroušová. Somewhat of a relief for Halep who lost her two previous finals in Rome to Elina Svitolina.
“I’m not playing her so I have a plus,” she joked.
“It’s a final, so I have to manage it a little bit better than previous years. It’s gonna be a tough match.’
“Now I’m more mature. So let’s hope that I can be better tomorrow and to win it.”
Halep will be playing in her 18th WTA final on the clay and is currently on a 13-match winning streak.
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