Mirjana Lucic-Baroni continued her stunning tournament, matching her career best run at a grand slam tournament by reaching the finals by defeating fifth seed Karolina Pliskova 64 36 64. The Croatian returned from a medical timeout to win twelve of the final thirteen points to reach her first grand slam semi-final since Wimbledon in 1999.
Lucic Baroni barely played between 2004 and 2008 after suffering personal problems that affected her life and career.
Lucic-Baroni had beaten Agnieszka Radwanska in the early rounds but few would have backed her to defeat the in-form Pliskova, who has made giant strides in the last twelve months.
Pliskova survived an early deuce scare on serve at love-one before racing into a three-one lead. She would win just one of the next eight games though, as Lucic-Baroni rolled back the years to take control of the opening set.
Lucic-Baroni set up three set points at four-five when she started the game with two magnificent backhand winners, both angled cross-court drives that passed Pliskova. The rattled fifth seed then missed with her own backhand to bring up love-forty. Lucic-Baroni missed long on her first shot, but then Pliskova followed suit to hand the Croatian a stunning set lead
The Croatian was dominant on serve through most of the set, winning more than three-quarters of points behind her first serve, and exactly half of her second serve points.
Lucic-Baroni held again to start the second, before a forehand cross-court, and a wide backhand cross-court winner brought up two immediate break points. Unlike the first set, Pliskova was unable to fend off the early pressure, meekly firing long with a forehand to hand the veteran Croatian the early second set break.
The thirty-four year-old perhaps understandably got tight, missing with three balls into the net in the next game and Pliskova immediately returned to serve. Before she could attempt to level on the second set scoreboard though, Pliskova received a three-minute timeout to treat blisters that had developed on Pliskova’s right foot.
Pliskova eventually held after a deuce game, and then broke when a vicious barrage of ground strokes saw the Croatian break down on the backhand side. The fifth seed then hit a rich vein of form, breaking twice to end the set six-three.
Four breaks of serve in the first six games of the deciding set saw the momentum swing one way and then the other. It was again Pliskova who hit top form at a crucial time, recovering from one-three to lead four-three on serve.
Lucic-Baroni was the next to call for a medical timeout, leaving court for assessment and then treatment. She returned to play a superb service game to stop Pliskova’s momentum, holding serve in just one minute and one second.
The injury break really seemed to help, with a superb start to her next return game also, two deep returns getting her to love-thirty. Two unforced errors from Pliskova then ensured Lucic-Baroni would serve for a place in the semi-finals, having won eight straight points since returning from the injury timeout.
Lucic-Baroni – ” I can’t believe this, this is crazy, I can’t believe I am in semi-finals again, I feel a little bit in shock right now. I could never dream about being here again (breaks down in tears) I know this means a lot to every player to reach the semi-finals but I will never ever forget this, just to think that I was this strong and that it was worth fighting for. It was impossible to serve from that side, the glasses do nothing but I just felt extreme calm and I just went after my shots. It’s really tough, I’m going to do my best to recover.”
Regardless of the result that she earns in the semi-finals or further, the story of Lucic-Baroni at the 2017 Australian Open is surely the story to be remembered from the women’s draw.
Lucic-Baroni’s story hasn’t finished yet at this tournament, with the next chapter featuring her in a semi-final against Serena Williams or Johanna Konta.
Simona Halep wins the all Romanian battle in Cluj
Simona Halep is into the second round in Cluj after a dominant performance.
The world number 18 and the top seed managed to beat her Romanian counterpart in straight sets.
Simona Halep is through round one of the Transylvania Open, being played at the BT Arena in Cluj-Napoca, after beating a fellow Romanian Elena Gabriella Ruse in straight sets 6-1, 6-2 in one hour and 13 minutes.
The number one seed served six aces and won 83% of her first serve points in a match that seemed one-sided and Halep was pulling amazing shots and winners throughout the entire match.
“It’s not easy to face a Romanian in the first round of a Romanian tournament but I was very focused and concentrated on what I have to do and I didn’t really think of who I would play, I just wanted to play my game and I felt great on court today.”
It was actually the world 85 with the first breakpoint of the match in the first game but it was denied when Halep stepped up to the service line and fired an ace to save it.
After holding serve the world number 18 started looking for the early lead and she was able to get it after a poor service game from Ruse and after consolidating the break managed to turn it into a double break.
Halep served out the first set in a mere 29 minutes and it was clear she was the better player today.
She continued to ride the momentum into the second set and at 1-1 earned three more chances to break and broke with a stunning return winner that caught Ruse off guard for the 2-1 lead.
At 4-2, the top seed managed to go up a double break with another amazing passing shot and she served out the match and after the match in her post-match press conference, she spoke about pulling off those amazing shots on breakpoints.
“When I have a chance to do it I always do because I love these kinda shots and today it was a great one so it made me very happy.”
Halep will next face the Russian Varvara Gracheva in the next round after she beat the German Andrea Petkovic in three sets 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 on Tuesday night.
Anett Kontaveit overpowers Krunic in Cluj-Napoca
Anett Kontaveit took a step towards the WTA Finals with a straight sets win in Cluj today.
The number two seed only needed two sets and 70 minutes to beat her Serbian opponent.
Anett Kontaveit is through to the second round of the Transylvania Open, being played at the BT Arena in Cluj-Napoca, beating the Serbian qualifier Aleksandra Krunic in straight sets 6-3, 7-5 in one hour and 10 minutes.
The world number 14 served two aces and won 69% of the points on her first serve in a match where she seemed to outhit her opponent using her powerful groundstrokes.
“The match was close and it was only break in the first set and I thought I was playing pretty well and winning a lot of points on my first serve but I actually think she served well and it wasn’t an easy match and the second set got really close”.
The Estonian had the better start to the match holding serve in her opening game and putting pressure on the Serb right away earning two chances to break serve and got the early break to take a 2-0 lead.
That one break was enough for Kontaveitt to serve out the first set and take it 6-3.
The second set was a more competitive affair and it stayed on serve until 2-2 when the Tallinn, Estonia native was able to break the Serb at love to take a 3-2 lead and she was able to consolidate the break.
It stayed on serve until 4-3 when the world number 44 fought back and was able to break the Estonian serve and the set went back on serve. Once again both players did a good job holding serve until 5-5 when Kontaveit got the crucial break of serve and served out the match.
After the match in her post-match press conference, Kontaveit spoke about how she was feeling energy-wise after such a short turnaround time from winning the title in Moscow last week.
” I feel like the energy has dropped a little bit but I did manage to bring some of the energy today and still be active and be aggressive.”
Kontaveit will now face Alison Van Uytvanck in her next match after the Belgian beat Danka Kovinic in straight sets 6-4, 6-4 earlier in the day.
Emma Raducanu battles back to beat Hercog in Cluj
Emma Raducanu won her first match on the WTA tour after beating Polona Hercog in Cluj.
The US Open champion was pushed to the limit in a three-set win over her Slovenian opponent.
Emma Raducanu is through to round two at the Transylvania Open in Cluj-Napoca after beating the Slovenian Polona Hercog in three sets 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 in a match that lasted two hours and 27 minutes.
The Brit served four aces and won 75% of her first serve points in a match that went back and forth for all three sets and had a rollercoaster feel to it and it was the first time at tour-level Raducanu played a three-set match.
“I feel really happy to have won that match it was actually very difficult and I wasn’t playing my best tennis but Polona (Hercog) is a great opponent and she is really experienced so I really had to fight hard to pull that one through.”
After holding serve in the opening service game of the match the world number 23 put pressure on Hercog’s serve right away and in a game that lasted 10 minutes, it took the Brit six break points before she was able to get the first break of serve of the match.
It stayed on serve until 4-2 when the world number 124 struck back and managed to get the break back to go back on serve and at 4-4 got the crucial break needed to serve out the first set.
The second set stayed on serve with the 18-year-old getting the first chance to break at 2-1 but Hercog saved all three break points she faced and at 4-4 it was the Slovenian applying pressure and looking for the break.
Raducanu was able to save it and hold serve and at 6-5, she found herself at set point as she managed to win it to force a third and deciding set.
Winning the second set seemed to give the Britt a boost and the motivation to keep fighting and she managed to get the early break to take a 2-0 lead and at 3-0 broke again to go up a double break.
The next game she found herself at match point but the world number 124 was able to save it and the next game Raducanu serve out the match. In her post-match press conference, she spoke about what the key was to turn the match around.
“It feels like a huge win for me and it’s my first WTA tour win which makes me very happy and I think the key was to stay mentally composed and I knew myself I wasn’t playing very well so I just needed to keep going one point at a time and I am really proud of myself how I fought today.”
Raducanu will face a Romanian in her next match on Thursday in Ana Bogden who beat the Serb Ivana Jorovic on Monday and this will be their first-ever meeting.
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