Elina Svitolina shocks top seed Angelique Kerber in Brisbane quarter-final, Alize Cornet shocks second seed Dominika Cibulkova - UBITENNIS
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Elina Svitolina shocks top seed Angelique Kerber in Brisbane quarter-final, Alize Cornet shocks second seed Dominika Cibulkova

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Top seed and World No. 1 Angelique Kerber fell at the quarter-final stage to Elina Svitolina in a tough three-set battle (Image via Zimbio.com)

Top seed and World No.1  Angelique Kerber has crashed out of the Brisbane WTA event, losing to sixth seed Elina Svitolina 64 36 63 in just short of two hours.

 

This time last season Angelique Kerber dominated the WTA tour and the Grand Slams, reaching the final in Brisbane before rising to the occasion in Melbourne, defeating Serena Williams for the Australian Open title.

She has however, not been able to mirror her first result of 2016 this year, as Svitolina produced an excellent display to thwart the German at the quarter-final stage. The win ensured that Svitolina gained revenge for a defeat to Kerber at the same event last season.

Despite a ranking gap with Kerber ranked No.1 and Svitolina No.14 some may have predicted a shock. Svitolina has always given Kerber trouble in their previous match-ups, and this result brings the head-to-head to a very close  5-4 in Kerber’s favour.

Svitolina dominated Kerber in the first set, breaking twice and incredibly winning more than half the points against her opponent’s first serve. Kerber’s determined retrieving skills kept things close by earning her own break, but the the Ukrainian held firm to take the opening set.

Kerber’s serve, often considered one of her weaknesses, particularly her second serve, remained unconvincing in the second, losing 56% of her second serve points. However, her first serve percentage picked up dramatically and she broke Svitolina twice, holding the sixth seed to just one break to level the match.

Kerber’s issues returned in the decider though, struggling with both her first and second serves. In a repeat of the first set Svitolina broke twice, and Kerber just the once.

The win for Svitolina ensures her progress into the semi-finals, where she will meet Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic  after the third seed edged Roberta Vinci 36 62 62 in an hour and fifty-one minutes.

Garbine Mugurza defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova 75 64 to reach the semi-finals in the bottom half of the draw, and she will face surprise semi-finalist Alize Cornet, after the Frenchwoman scored a massive over second seed and World No.5 Dominika Cibulkova, 63 75.

This year’s event is wide open as last year’s winner Victoria Azarenka is not present, beaten finalist Angelique Kerber is out, and the second seed is now out. The favourite now is perhaps Garbine Muguruza, as the Spanish French Open champions remains in the bottom half of the draw with the unseeded Alize Cornet her next opponent.

 

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Tereza Martincova and Belinda Bencic reach the quarter final in Ostrava

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Czech wildcard Tereza Martincova upset Roland Garros Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (8-6) after 2 hours and 19 minutes to advance to the quarter finals at the J&T Banka Ostrava Open. 

 

Martincova claimed her third top 20 win of her career and reached her second quarter final on home soil this season after finishing fourth in Prague. 

Pavlyuchenkova earned the first break to take a 4-3 lead and served for the first set in the 10th game, but she never reached a set point. The Russian player came just two points away from winning the first set at 5-4 30-15, but Martincova won four consecutive points before winning the tie-break 7-5. 

Martincova dropped just eight points in the first six games of the second set. The Czech player fended off two break points to consolidate her lead for 2-0. She raced out to a 7-6 (7-5) 5-1 lead, but Pavlyuchenkova saved two match points to hold serve forcing Martincova to serve for the match. Martincova dropped four consecutive points. Pavlyuchenkova got another break, when Martincova was serving for the match for the third time at 6-5. Martincova went up a 4-1 lead in the tie-break, but Pavlyuchenkova drew level to 4-4 before saving a third match point. Martincova won the final two points to claim the tie-break 8-6. 

Martincova set up a quarter final match against Maria Sakkari, who beat last week’s Luxembourg finalist Jelena Ostapenko. 

This year’s Olympic champion Belinda Bencic cruised to a 6-2 6-3 win over Sara Sorribes Tormo in just 88 minutes. Bencic claimed her 15th win in her last 18 matches. Bencic broke six times and reeled off eight consecutive games from 2-2 in the first set to cruise through to a a straight-set win. Sorribes Tormo saved a break point to win her first game for 1-4 and pulled one break back in the sixth game, but Bencic sealed the win with her third break in the ninth game. “I think I prepared well for this match tactically, and also mentally, because it’s very tough. You have to win the point many times against her, especially on this surface, where it’s very slow. I am happy that I stayed disciplined for the whole match”, said Bencic. 

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Naomi Osaka Withdraws From Indian Wells, Unclear If She Will Play Again This Year

There is no official word but it looking increasingly likly that the world No.8 might have pulled the plug on her 2021 season.

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Japan’s Naomi Osaka has officially withdrawn from the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells just weeks after saying she will take a break from the sport due to personal reasons.

 

The former world No.1 hadn’t played a match since her loss to Leylah Fernandez in the third round of the US Open. Speaking to reporters in New York, Osaka said she didn’t know when she would play another match on the Tour. Earlier this year she opened up about her mental health struggles after revealing she has been suffering from social anxiety and depression. Osaka also took time away from the sport during the summer after pulling out of the French Open before deciding to skip Wimbledon.

“This is very hard to articulate. Basically I feel like I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match. Sorry,” she said following her loss to Fernandez.
“I think I’m going to take a break from playing for a while. How do I go around saying this? I feel like for me recently when I win I don’t feel happy. I feel more like a relief. And then when I lose, I feel very sad. I don’t think that’s normal. I didn’t really want to cry.”

Osaka’s withdrawal from Indian Wells was confirmed by the tournament who published an announcement on social media. Although they didn’t specify what reason she used to withdraw from the tournament which is one of the biggest events outside of the Grand Slams in terms of ranking points and prize money on offer.

It was Indian Wells where Osaka won her first prestigious title back in 2018 after defeating Daria Kasatkina in straight sets. The following year she was the top seed in the draw but lost to Belinda Bencic in the fourth round.

There has been no official comment from Osaka or her team about Indian Wells and if she will play again this season. Although it looks increasingly unlikely. She is in with a chance of qualifying for the WTA Finals in November but even if she does make the cut it is unclear if she will attend the event which has been relocated from China to Mexico.

This year Indian Wells will get underway on October 4th which is more than six months later than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Simona Halep Ends Six-Year Collaboration With Coach Cahill

One of the longest coaching partnerships on the WTA Tour has come to an end.

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Former world No.1 Simona Halep is on the lookout for a new coach after unexpectedly announcing her split from Darren Cahill on Wednesday.

 

The two-time Grand Slam champion has been working with the Australian mentor for most of the time since 2015. There was a brief period where Cahill stepped away from his duties to spend more time with his family before later returning. Under his guidance, the Romanian reached the top of the world rankings and featured in the final of three major tournaments, winning two of those.

“After six wonderful years working together, Darren Cahill and I have decided that it’s time to end our working relationship,” Halep wrote on social media. “Thank you D for everything, for making me a better tennis player and a better person.”

55-year-old Cahill is a former player himself who has also worked with a series of top players prior to Halep. In the past, he has coached both Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi to world No.1 at different stages of their careers. Doubles specialist Horia Tecău reportedly told Romanian TV that it was rumoured Cahill received an annual salary in the region of one million euros during his time with Halep. Although this has not been verified.

The announcement comes a week after Halep married Macedonian businessman Toni Iuruc. One of those who attended the event was Illie Nastase who was one of the world’s best tennis players during the 1970s, winning both the French Open and US Open.

I didn’t know anything about Simona’s intention to break up with Darren Cahill. It took me a little by surprise. But Simona Halep has proven she knows what she’s doing. As I did not know, I do not see what I could comment. But there is no question of collaborating (with her),” Nastase told playsport.ro.
I didn’t talk to her about this or to anyone else in her entourage… I think only Simona knows who her future coach will be. I trust her choices.”

So far in 2021 Halep has achieved a win-loss record of 15-7 during what has been a rollercoaster season. An Achilles injury forced her to miss both the French Open and Wimbledon, as well as the Tokyo Olympics. Since returning to the Tour from her injury she has won back-to-back matches in one out of three tournaments played. Reaching the fourth round of the US Open.

There has been no official word on who may replace Cahill as Halep’s coach.

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