TENNIS AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2015 – Serena Williams edged Maria Sharapova 6-3 7-6 (7-5) to clinch her sixth Australian Open title (her first since 2010) and her 19th overall Grand Slam trophy. She has overtaken Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert in the all-time ranking of the players with most Grand Slam wins. Only Steffi Graf won more times with 22 titles. Diego Sampaolo
Serena won 16 consecutive matches against Maria and extended to 17-2 in her head-to-head matches against her Russian rival. She clinched 12 of these matches in straight sets. Sharapova has not beaten Williams since the WTA Championships final in Los Angeles.
Williams won her previous Australian Open final against Sharapova in 2007 in straight sets with 6-1 6-2 They met only once more in 2005 in the semifinals when Williams won in three sets with 2-6 7-5 8-6. The Russian star won one of her four finals Down Under in 2008 when she defeated Ana Ivanovic.
Williams earned a break point in the first game as Sharapova hit a backhand wide. Serena got the break for 1-0 with a double fault from the Russian player. Serena won the first significant rally of the match with a backhand winner with 40-30 and held serve with a backhand winner.
Sharapova capitalized on a couple of errors and to go up 30-0 before winning her first game to love with a serve and a forehand winner. In the fourth game Sharapova won the point after the best rally of the match with a drop-shot. Serena hit a forehand winner and her first ace of the match before going up 40-30. Williams won the game to pull away to 3-1 after an unsuccessful challenge from Sharapova.
The Russian five-time Grand Slam champion kept the pace by holding serve for 3-2. Sharapova hit a forehand winner and came close to a break point in the sixth game but Williams clawed her way back to draw level to 30-30. The match was stopped for 13 minutes at 30-30 in the sixth game when rain came down heavier. After the roof was closed and the match was resumed Williams hit an ace and a forehand to win the game for 4-2.
Sharapova double faulted to hand Williams three break points. Serena converted on her first break point chance for 5-2 as Maria hit a forehand long.
In the next game Sharapova earned three chances to break back as Williams hit her backhand into the net. Williams saved the first chance with her forehand and the second with an ace but Sharapova converted the break-back point chance on the third opportunity when Williams made a double fault.
After an exciting rally Sharapova missed a forehand down the line to hand Williams a break point. Williams hit a backhand winner to convert on the break point to close out the first set with 6-3
There were no breaks of serve in the second set. Williams hit her fifth and the sixth aces in the opening game of the second set before going up 1-0 with a forehand down-the line winner. Williams earned a break point chance but Sharapova saved it when Williams sent a backhand long. Williams held serve for 2-1 in the third game.
Sharapova missed a forehand to go down 15-30 but she held on and hit a backhand winner into the corner to draw level to 2-2. Sharapova hit 18 of her 21 winners and saved four break points during the second set
Sharapova hit a winner to go up 0-30 on Williams’ serve but the US legend hit two aces to draw level to 30-30 before clinching the fifth game with tow more aces for 3-2. Williams earned a break point in the sixth game with a backhand winner but failed to convert it when she sent a forehand long.
Sharapova started the seventh game with a forehand winner but Williams survived a tough game with her 13th game for 4-3. Sharapova won the 8th game to draw level to 4-4.
Williams brought up a match point with Sharapova serving at 4-5 30-40. Masha hit a forehand down the line winner to save the first of two match points and held her service game in the 10th game.
Sharapova won a long and exciting rally to draw level to 30-30 but Williams hit two aces to clinch the 11th game and edge ahead with 6-5 but Sharapova won the service game to force the second set to the tie-break.
Sharapova hit a winner into the corner on Williams’ serve to get the mini-break but was broken back immediately. With her 17th ace Williams pulled away to a 4-1 lead but Sharapova clawed her back into the match after a couple of misses from Williams.
Williams build up a 6-4 lead in the tie-break. Sharapova saved the second match point with a winning service return. Williams hit her 18th ace to clinch her 19th Grand Slam title on her third match point. Only Steffi Graf won more titles with 22 Grand Slam titles. With her sixth title Serena has become the oldest winner of the Australian Open women’s tournament.
Williams won 37 of her 44 first serve points and hi 38 winners.
“I have to congratulate Maria. She played a wonderful match. She really pushed me tonight. She gave us a great final not only for you guys but for women’s tennis. I am really honoured I got to play you in the final. Growing up I wasn’t the richest, but I had a rich family in spirit and support and standing here with 19 championships is something I never thought would happen. It feels really good to be sitting here as the champion. I definitely didn’t think I would be here at the beginning of the week or the beginning of the two weeks, but it feels pretty excellent. I was not feeling great. Every time I didn’t feel great I started to feel better, and then the next day I got worse. I had a bad cough. I ended up throwing up. I have just got a bad cold. When that happens, you stay in bed, you don’t play matches every day. There was a lot of ups and downs. So I just thought that I was somehow still in the tournament and now I somehow I have won. It’s really exciting”, said Williams
“The match definitely got tough in the second set. Maria started playing a lot better. She started being a little more aggressive. I think I got a little more passive. She was just trying to get the ball back in play but I started serving better in the second set because I knew if I wasn’t having my groundstrokes where I wanted them to be. I knew I could serve it out. It got really interesting. I had a lot of moments. I had some easy shots that I missed in the second set on her serve, and then she came up with a big serve when she was down a breakpoint, which was great. I definitely can look back and say: I could have done a few things better just for the future”
Sharapova admitted in the post-match press conference that she fell short in the finish during the tie-break.
“It’s always tough getting to a final stage of an event where it’s down to two players and you end up become the one that’s going home with the smaller trophy. There is no doubt about it. No matter how you played, well or not, whatever the scoreline is. It’s always tough. In the finish I definitely thought I could have put a few more serves in the tiebreaker. Giving her many looks on the second serve. Event though they were good, deep second serves, she was ready. She was aggressive. She hit a couple of winners. Then in some of the service games where I had 15-30 and 30-all, she came up with really big serves, ones I sometimes couldn’t get my reach at. Those you just have to let go and keep going. One of her biggest strengths is her serve. Maybe it’s something that has saved her in many matches, situations where you cannot get her racquet on the ball. When the games on her serve were 30-all. 40-30 or 15-30 a few times, she came up with really great serves. I have not beaten her for a long time but I love every time I step out on the court with her. I have had some of the best memories of my career on this court and some of my toughest losses but that’s the life of a tennis player”, said Sharapova
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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