Wimbledon 2015 Day 1: Williams Sisters, Sharapova and Azarenka have easy opening matches - UBITENNIS
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Wimbledon 2015 Day 1: Williams Sisters, Sharapova and Azarenka have easy opening matches

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TENNIS – The opening day of Wimbledon saw a lot of ladies action. There were no major upsets as top favourites and former champions here Serena and Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova had very light workouts. Cordell Hackshaw

 

USUAL SUSPECTS
Serena Williams (1) opened her campaign for a second “Serena Slam” (winning 4 majors in a row) and the third leg for a  first “Grand Slam” (winning all  4 majors in the calendar year) got off to a sloppy start. An erratic Williams started off the match down 0-2 against Russian Margarita Gasparyan. The Russian continuously unleashed a nice one-handed backhand which is extremely rare on the ladies’ tour these days. Williams was able to hold serve with confidence for 1-2 however, it was clear that Gasparyan was ready for the challenge of defeating the number 1 player in the world. Williams had several break points to level set early but she missed them badly with poor errors. Gasparyan held serve for 3-1 and secured herself a break point to go up 4-1. It was at this point that Williams fully realized the urgency of situation. With some quick big serves, Williams was able to erase her problems for 2-3. Williams then wrest control of the match to break for 3-3 and then break again in the 10th game for 6-4.

Williams carried this momentum into the 2nd set as she raced out to a 3-1 lead. However, Gasparyan found herself with triple break points but could not convert any of them. Williams held and broke the Russian again for 5-1. With a smash winner, Williams moved into the 2nd round 6-4 6-1. Williams would later state that though she expected Gasparyan to be good, she did not expect her to be this good.

Victoria Azarenka (23) was the first player through to the 2nd round of Wimbledon with a 6-2 6-1 victory over Anett Kontaveit of Estonia. Azarenka did not play this event last year and has struggled at this event though she made it to the semifinals back in 2012 and won the bronze medal at the Olympics here. Both times she lost to Serena Williams. This is a really good start for the Belarusian who is trying to work her way back to major form after an injury plagued 2014.

Maria Sharapova (4) v Johanna Konta The young Brit had a break point in the opening game of the match. However, Sharapova was not about to let a young upstart dash her hopes of a second Wimbledon title. Konta failed to break the Sharapova serve and it was a routine victory for the Russian 6-2 6-2. Sharapova will face Richel Hogenkamp for a place in the 3rd round. Also having an easy day at the office was 5-time champion Venus Williams (16) who took out fellow American Madison Brengle 6-0 6-0 in 42 minutes. Also winning without dropping a game was Andrea Petkovic (14) with a 6-0 6-0 routing of another American Shelby Rogers. Williams would take on Yulia Putinseva in the next round. Petkovic will face Mariana Duque-Marino. Ana Ivanovic (7) won comfortably on the day 6-1 6-1 over China’s Yi Xu.

SURPRISES
Several seeded players found themselves in unexpected battles in their opening round matches. This year’s French Open finalist, Lucie Safarova (6) had to play 3 sets to get past American Alison Riske 3-6 7-5 6-3. Riske served for the match up 5-4 in the 2nd set but Safarova broke twice to take the set and push to a decider. In the 3rd set, Riske went up 2-0 but was unable to maintain the momentum. She lost 6 of the next 7 games. Fellow Czech, Karolina Pliskova (11) also had a tough time again an American, Irina Falconi, 6-4 4-6 6-1. Sara Errani (19) had to deal with fellow Italian Francesca Schiavone unrelentingly fighting spirit. Schiavone won 4 straight games in the 2nd set down 3-5 to take it to the 3rd. However, she could not keep up with the will of Errani who won 6-2 5-7 6-1. Belinda Bencic (30) fresh off her first WTA title in Eastbourne had to deal with the dangerous floater that is Tsetvana Pironkova. However, the Swiss player held her nerves to take it in three sets 3-6 6-1 6-3. Perhaps not surprising but more so interesting is the fact that Daniela Hantuchova easily dismissed Dominika Cibulkova  7-5 6-0. Cibulkova recently returned to the game after surgery but it was nonetheless a shocking loss.

UPSETS
Carla Suarez Narravo (9) was the biggest upset of the day as she was completely dismantled by the 2014 Junior Wimbledon Champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia. Suarez-Narravo just never looked comfortable in the match as she was outplayed from almost the first ball. The Spaniard had only had 1 winner compared to 30 from Ostapenko and was only able to break once in the entire match. She was only able to win 37% of the points on her 1st serve compared to 91% from the Latvian. Thus this encounter was a quick one as Ostapenko took it 6-2 6-0 in 53 minutes. She will face Kristina Mladenovic who took out Alexandra Dulgheru 6-2 6-1.

Flavia Pennetta (24) was another nearly casualty of the Championships. She spilt the opening sets with Zarina Diyas to force a decider. However, Diyas got out to a 4-0 lead in the 3rd set, a lead to great for Pennetta to recover. The Italian was able to claw her way back into the match and got one of the breaks back for 3-4. Diyas played aggressive on the big points to prevent another break and given Pennetta a real shot of regaining control. Serving for the match up 5-4, Diyas mixed it up, with some very aggressive serving and soon earned 2 match points. Pennetta saved one of the match points. Diyas double faulted on the 2nd one for deuce. Pennetta thought she had a winner for break point but the forehand was wide. She was unable to challenge as there is no players’ review on Court 10. Diyas with a third match point held her nerve and it was Pennetta who faltered as her shot went into the net. Diyas through 6-3 2-6 6-4.

OTHER WINNERS
Several Americans made it through to the 2nd round of Wimbledon: Lauren Davis, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Coco Vandeweghe and Sloane Stephens who upset 27th seed and last year’s quarterfinalist, Barbora Strycova 6-4 6-4. Sam Stosur (22) also made light work of her opponent as she won in straight sets as did Urszula Radwanska and Irina Begu (29). Heather Watson took out Caroline Garcia (32) 1-6 6-3 8-6 over the course of two days. The match was suspended because of poor lighting on the opening day. It concluded on Day 2.

 

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Garbine Muguruza Routs Konta In Rome

Garbine Muguruza confidently dispatched Johanna Konta 6-4 6-1 to set up a mouth-watering fourth-round clash with Victoria Azarenka in Rome.

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Garbine Muguruza confidently dispatched Johanna Konta 6-4 6-1 to set up a mouth-watering fourth-round clash with Victoria Azarenka in Rome.

 

It was a surprisingly comfortable win for the Spaniard, 26, against an opponent she has found troublesome in the past. Muguruza and Konta have each won two of their previous matches, and all four of those encounters were lengthy three-set affairs.

During the first eight games of this match, it looked like it might go a similar way. The opening exchanges were closely-fought and both players produced high-quality tennis and served well for the most part.

On occasion, Muguruza and Konta got themselves into trouble by making errors and falling 0-30 or 0-40 behind on their own serves. However, they always responded well and executed high-quality points to turn those games around.

Eventually, the whole set came down to one game. When Muguruza led 5-4, Konta again slipped 0-40 behind on serve. The Brit managed to save one break point, but the Spaniard took control of the next point and forced an error to seize the first break of the match.

Muguruza storms to victory

After Muguruza confidently held at the start of the second set, Konta missed a tricky high volley that would have secured the second game. Then she gave away the break with a double fault and an unforced error.

The next game turned out to be the most important of the match. The Brit hassled and harried the Spaniard and earned three break points. But the two-time Grand Slam champion held firm. She delivered big first serves when she needed them most to save all three and go on to secure the hold.

After that, the match ended quite quickly. Konta held to reduce the deficit to 3-1. Then Muguruza served and rallied superbly to win three games in a row and clinch an impressively comprehensive victory.

The Spaniard will face Azarenka in the last 16. The Belarussian was locked in a fascinating battle with Daria Kasatkina when the Russian took a nasty fall in the first tie-break and was forced to retire due to an ankle injury. Touchingly, Azarenka helped Kasatkina to her chair and comforted her after the accident.

Halep sees off Yastremska

Simona Halep (@InteBNLdItalia on Twitter)

Simona Halep advanced to a fourth-round clash with Yulia Putintseva in Rome courtesy of a 7-5 6-4 win over Dayana Yastremska.

The Romanian, 28, looks to be such a calm figure on court these days. And she did not seem bothered at all when the Ukrainian went 3-0 up after a blistering start to the match.

Halep responded by working her way into the match and capitalising whenever Yastremska made errors. The Romanian hit a backhand winner to break back. Then she played a series of intelligent points to claim the crucial break in the eleventh game and secure the set.

The Ukrainian made the worst possible start to the second set. She made a series of errors and dropped serve twice in a row to give herself a mountain to climb. Yastremska managed to get one of the breaks back immediately after that but Halep gave nothing else away and eventually closed out the set.

The Romanian will play Putintseva in the last 16. The Kazakhstani overcame talented young compatriot Elena Rybakina 4-6 7-6(3) 6-2 in a pulsating first-ever meeting.

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Garbine Muguruza Edges Gauff In Exciting Rome Showdown

Garbine Muguruza held off a strong challenge from Coco Gauff to win a riveting second-round match 7-6(3) 3-6 6-3 at the Italian Open in Rome.

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Garbine Muguruza held off a strong challenge from Coco Gauff to win a riveting second-round match 7-6(3) 3-6 6-3 at the Italian Open in Rome.

 

The Spaniard, 26, rediscovered some of her best form to reach the Australian Open final in January. And she produced arguably her strongest performance since the restart to overcome the precocious 16-year-old.

There was very little to separate the two players in the opening set. Both Muguruza and Gauff were sporadically excellent. Each hit superb winners at times. But they balanced this out by making sloppy errors.

Consequently, neither player was able to break away. When the American broke in game four, the Spaniard responded immediately to rein her in.

Even though most of the games were closely-contested in the rest of the set, there were no breaks. Therefore, the only way to decide who would take the lead was a tie-break.

It was Muguruza who rose to the occasion. She produced one of the most impressive six-point sequences you are ever likely to see. First, the Spaniard hit a forehand winner that landed on the baseline. Then she hit a huge unreturnable serve followed by an ace. Next, she forced an error from Gauff with a deep backhand. And at 6-3 up, she clinched the set in style with another ace.

Gauff fights back

Gauff approached the second set with steely determination. She did not give anything away and gradually cranked up the pressure on Muguruza.

In game three, the American’s efforts were rewarded. She earned two break points and seized the second with a precise passing shot back behind the Spaniard.

Unlike in the first set, Gauff then held serve to move 3-1 ahead. And the pressure of being behind had an effect on Muguruza. She made a couple of errors to give the American three chances to gain a double break.

The Spaniard dug in and saved the first two. But she was unable to prevent Gauff from taking the third with a powerful backhand followed by a forehand winner.

Cori Gauff (@ChannelNewsAsia on Twitter)

Muguruza was in no mood to let the second set slip away. She hit a brilliant lob and a stunning forehand winner to earn two break points in game six.

Although the American saved them both, the Spaniard soon earned two more. And she eventually took her fourth break point of the game courtesy of a double fault from Gauff.

Muguruza held comfortably to reduce the deficit to 4-3. However, she did not manage to retrieve the second break, as the American held to move 5-3 ahead. Gauff then profited from a sloppy service game from the Spaniard to clinch the set.

Muguruza stays strong as errors cost Gauff dearly

When Gauff broke to establish a 2-0 lead at the start of the decider, it looked like she was on course for a famous win over the two-time Grand Slam champion.

However, the American wasted her opportunity. She made three consecutive double faults to gift Muguruza three break points. And the Spaniard took the third to break back immediately.

After a steady hold from Muguruza, Gauff made two more double faults in game six. Once again, the Spaniard capitalised. She then held again to open up a 4-2 lead.

The American found her range on serve to reduce the deficit. But the end came quickly for her. Muguruza withstood everything Gauff threw at her during a hold that put her 5-3 up.

The Spaniard then went on the attack. She drove the American back behind the baseline and then hit a forehand winner. Then she forced a couple of errors to make it 0-40. At that stage, Gauff was completely demoralised. She hit a forehand into the net to surrender the match to Muguruza.

In the next round, the World No.17 may get a chance to resume a fascinating rivalry. All four of her meetings with Johanna Konta have gone to three sets. So if the Brit can beat qualifier Irina-Camelia Begu, it could lead to another entertaining encounter.

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Victoria Azarenka Relishing Challenge Of Quick Turnaround In Rome

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Victoria Azarenka (image via https://twitter.com/InteBNLdItalia)

Within four days Victoria Azarenka had gone from playing in her first Grand Slam semi-final since 2013 to hitting on the clay courts of the Italian Open in Rome.

 

The former world No.1 returned to competitive action on Wednesday fresh off her solid run in New York that has elevated her back up the rankings to inside the top 15 for the first time since 2017. Her latest challenger was veteran player Venus Williams who she disposed of 7-6(7), 6-2, to record her 12th win within the past month. Despite the straightforward score, Azarenka was tested throughout after being broken four times and had to fend off a set point during the opener.

“Obviously playing on a different surface was definitely challenging, but I feel like I have adapted pretty well,” said Azarenka.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I knew I wasn’t going to play a perfect game. But it was all about trying to find the right intentions to do today. I think it worked out okay. “

Azarenka is the only US Open semi-finalist to have made it to Italian capital this year with the others instead opting to skip ahead to the French Open. Which will begin a week on Monday. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tennis schedule has been revised with tournaments bunched closer together than they normally would. Nevertheless Azarenka sees the positive side to the current situation.

“I think the best way to transition is to play matches. I know physically it’s quite challenging, on your body it is quite challenging but I wanted to do this. I knew I was going to come no matter what.” She stated.
“I’m very happy that I did. I think there is no better way to adapt than playing matches. You know, staying in the bubble is tough, but might as well commit to these few more weeks that we have left in the year and then go back home.”

The 31-year-old Belarusian hasn’t had much success on clay so far in her career. Only one out of her 21 WTA titles has been won on the surface back in 2011. Furthermore, she has won less main draw matches at the French Open (22) than any other Grand Slam.

For Azarenka she admits that playing on the clay requires her to adapt both mentally and physically in the coming days.

“On hard courts I’m pretty comfortable with staying and hugging the baseline and taking everything early. And I think you have to be a little bit more adaptive on clay where sometimes you need to move back and have that transition, a little bit longer rallies. The building of the point has to be a little bit more constructive,” she explains.
“Mentally, I believe there is also an adaptation where the rally may be longer. Some balls may not bounce as well as on hard courts.”

Azarenka will play Sofia Kenin in the third round in what will be a battle of the Australian Open champions.

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