Women's Australian Open Day Two: Drama After Drama, Niculescu and Babos Out - UBITENNIS
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Women’s Australian Open Day Two: Drama After Drama, Niculescu and Babos Out

Bottom half of the women’s draw brought great exciting matches. In this article we will focus on the matches that might have gone under your radar outside of the top players.

Jakub Bobro

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Match of the Day… so far

 

Match of the day has to go to the clash between Yanina Wickmayer and Lucie Safarova. The two experienced players faced off at Show Court 3, knowing that they would most likely face Serena Williams in their next match. Wickmayer was the better player until 6-3 5-4, when Safarova also stepped her game up. Wickmayer had the psychological advantage, having Safarova serve to stay in the match twice. She did well enough at 4-5, but at 5-6, Wickmayer gained access to her first match points. The Czech proved her mental fortitude and sent the second set into a tiebreak. Wickmayer was up in the tiebreak, giving her even more match points, but Safarova rallied back and won the second set tiebreak 9-7. The final set was dominated by Safarova, who won with the final scoreline 3-6 7-6(7) 6-1. Even more impressive than that, was the fact that Lucie Safarova saved NINE match points in the second set. It is easy to forget that Safarova was a Top 5 player just 2 years ago, and she certainly still has the quality.

The Upsets

There were two main upsets today, Nicole Gibbs beating 26th seeded Timea Babos 7-6 6-4 and more surprisingly Anna Blinkova getting the win over Monica Niculescu. Gibbs came into the match almost a favorite, as Babos could be marked as the weakest seed in the draw. The American has had a breakout year in 2016, and is showing that she can be a contender in 2017. Her second round opponent is another American, Irina Falconi with whom she has a 0-3 head-to-head.  Monica Niculescu was seen as a possible upset threat to Karolina Pliskova, over whom the Romanian has a 2-1 lead in head-to-head and is generally a bad match-up for the Czech. However these plans would be destroyed by the 18 year-old Russian star Anna Blinkova. Blinkova put together a great performance which was enough for Niculescu, but didn’t look okay throughout the match. She could have often been seen leaning against the fence and limping when walking to serve or return. One can only guess if it was the Australian heat, or something else that caused the Russian to act this way.

Seeds are through

Nine out of ten seeds so far has advanced, even outside the stars that are Pliskova, Konta and Serena Williams. 6th seed Dominika Cibulkova has gone past her first hurdle, Denisa Allertova with a comfortable 7-5 6-2. win. 21st seed Caroline Garcia managed to keep Kateryna Bondarenko at bay, in what was a very tricky first round. The French took the match in straight sets 7-6(4) 6-4, but it definitely wasn’t a straightforward match. If Garcia gets past her countrywoman Oceane Dodin in Round of 64, she will have a good shot of beating the other seed in her section, Barbora Strycova, and set up a possible 4th round showdown against Serena Williams. 28th seed and Brisbane finalist Alize Cornet has had a bit of unexpected struggle in her first round against Myrtille Georges. Cornet looked on her way to win the match in straights, but it was a 6-3 4-6 6-1 win instead. 31st seed Yulia Putintseva had a great match with Lara Arruabarrena, who had a great Hopman Cup run. Putintseva took the match in two close tiebreaks 7-6(7) 7-6(10).  14th seed Elena Vesnina passed comfortably to second round with a 7-5 6-2 win over Ana Bogdan of Romania. 30th seed Ekaterina Makarova, who has made Australian Open semifinals in the past got a dramatic start to this year’s edition against Ekaterina Alexandrova, her countrywoman. Makarova won after 1 hour and 25 minutes and a curious scoreline- 6-0 4-6 6-1.

 

Who is still in?

There are many exciting unseeded players still in the draw after the first round, and here are some that made it out after today. Naomi Osaka of Japan is through to the second round after a tough opener against Luksika Kumkhum, winning 6-7(2) 6-4 7-5. Thus Osaka has set up a blockbuster second round against 9th seed and Sydney champion Johanna Konta. Osaka’s fellow WTA Rising Star Jelena Ostapenko reaches second round after a quick 6-4 6-0 win over Lin Zhu. Former Top 10 player Sara Errani is still going strong in Melbourne, after defeating Risa Ozaki of Japan 7-5 6-1. Rest of the players that won today are the following: Irina Falconi, Donna Vekic, Oceane Dodin, Maria Sakkari and Su-Wei Hsieh.

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Aryna Sabalenka beats Svetlana Kuznetsova to reach the final in Doha

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Aryna Sabalenka from Belarus reached the 10th final of her career with a 6-4 6-3 win over 2007 Doha finalist Svetlana Kuznetsova in the semifinal of the Qatar Total Open in Doha after 1 hour and 17 minutes.

 

Sabalenka held a 2-2 record in her four previous head-to-head matches against Kuznetsova, but she won their only hard-court tie in Indian Wells in 2018.

Sabalenka went up a break twice in the first set, but Kuznetsova pulled the break back both times in a streak of four consecutive games. After four consecutive games on serve Sabalenka sealed the first set 6-4 at love.

Sabalenka raced out to a 3-0 lead at the start of the second set with a break at love in the second game at love extending his winning streak to five consecutive games. Sabalenka held her next service games and took a 30-0 lead in the final game with a forehand half volley. She sealed the second set with a winner on her second match point.

 

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Former Top 50 Star Johanna Larsson Retires From Tennis

Another familiar face on the women’s tour has hung up her racket.

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Johanna Larsson (image via WTA Twitter)

Swedish tennis player Johanna Larsson has announced that she is stepping away from tennis with immediate effect at the age of 31.

 

Larsson, who has been ranked as high as 45th in the world back in 2016, said her passion to play at her very best was no longer there during an interview with tennis.se. The announcement comes after what has been a tough start to 2020 for the current world No.236. After winning three matches in qualifying at the Australian Open, she won only one game during her first round match against Paula Badosa. Then at a Fed Cup event, she lost two out of three matches played.

I’ve had these thoughts for a while, already during the Australian Open, but the real decision I made after the Fed Cup in February. Even though I was acknowledged that I was at a high level, the feeling was reinforced that I didn’t really have what it takes to play at the absolute top. I don’t want to do anything to 70-80 percent,” she commented on her decision to retire.

Whilst she never managed to break into the top 20, Larsson still managed to feature in five WTA finals during her career. Four of which were on the clay. She won her maiden title in 2015 on home territory at the Swedish Open before claiming a second trophy three years later at the Nuremberg Cup in Germany. She contested 37 grand slam main draws where she won a total of 16 matches.

Larsson’s grand slam main draw wins
-Australian Open 3
-French Open 8
-Wimbledon 0
-US Open 5

Larsson’s best achievements on the court took place in the doubles, where she was ranked as high as 20th in the world. Overall, she won 14 WTA titles on the tour. Her most successful partnership was with Kiki Bertens, whom she won nine trophies with. Together they were also runners-up at the 2017 WTA Finals. Larsson also reached the semi-finals of last year’s French Open with Kirsten Flipkens.

“I think I need some time now for it to really sink in.” Said Larsson. “Maybe it’s only in a month or two that you really understand that it’s over. Now it is nicer to have a morning sleep and not have anything planned, especially to not have to count down for days before I go out on the next trip. I can do things spontaneously with my family and friends, but it will level off and then I also think that missing and those pieces will come in.”

She was coached on the tour by Mattias Arvidsson, who also serves as the Swedish Fed Cup captain. In the team competition Larsson has achieved a total of 52 wins between 2005-2020, which is more than any other player in her country. She featured in a total of 48 ties.

“She has been a fantastic ambassador for Swedish tennis and has always given everything and never left anything to chance.” Said Arvidsson. “She has always been a role model at all levels, both in training and in competitions. It is clear that for all the younger players it was hoped that she would run for a while.”

Larsson ends her career with $4,033,736 in prize money earnings. She is currently the only Swedish female tennis player in history to win more than $3M in the sport.

Retired female tennis players in 2020

  • Caroline Wozniacki DEN
  • Maria Sharapova RUS
  • Ekaterina Makarova RUS
  • Vania King USA
  • María José Martínez Sánchez ESP
  • Carla Suarez Navarro ESP (to retire at the end of the season)
  • Johanna Larsson SWE

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Ahsleigh Barty overcomes Garbine Muguruza to reach the semifinals in Doha

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Ashleigh Barty fought back from losing the second set to beat Garbine Muguruza 6-1 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 after 1 hour and 51 minutes at the Qatar Total Open on Centre Court in Doha.

 

Barty and Muguruza were level at 1-1 in their two previous head-to-head matches, which went to the third set.

Barty received a walkover into the quarter final as Elena Rybakina pulled out injured after reaching two consecutive Premier-level finals in St. Petersburg and Dubai.

Barty broke twice in the second and sixth games and did not face a break point to win the first set 6-1.

Muguruza earned the first break of the second set in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead. Barty broke straight back in the eighth game to draw level to 4-4 to force the second set to the tie-break. Muguruza raced out to a 5-0 lead. Barty came back by winning four of the next five games, but Muguruza clinched the second set on their second set point.

Barty saved a break point in the first game of the third set and opened up a 5-2 lead after a streak of three consecutive breaks. The Australian player came back from 15-40 down in the last game and forced a backhand into the net from Muguruza on return to earn a match point and sealed the win with a break, as Muguruza sent her forehand wide.  Barty sets up a semifinal against Petra Kvitova in a re-match of the Australian Open quarter finals.

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