Lucie Safarova beats Dominika Cibulkova to set up Miami quarter final against Caroline Wozniacki - UBITENNIS
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Lucie Safarova beats Dominika Cibulkova to set up Miami quarter final against Caroline Wozniacki

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Lucie Safarova beat Dominika Cibulkova 7-6 (7-5) 6-1 at the Miami Open WTA Premier Mandatory to secure her spot in the quarter final, where she will face Caroline Wozniacki.

 

Cibulkova led 5-2 in her previous seven head-to-head matches against Safarova. In the first set both players traded breaks in the third and fourth games to draw level to 4-4. Cibulkova held serve putting pressure on Safarova, who served to stay in the first set at 4-5. Safarova held serve at 30 with her fourth ace. Safarova broke serve in the 11th game for 6-5 earning a chance to serve out for the first set. Cibulkova broke back to force the set to the tie-break. Cibulkova got the first mini-break but dropped her serve with a double fault. Safarova got two mini-breaks to earn two set points at 6-4. The Czech player did not convert the first set point, as she made her third double fault but sealed the set on her second opportunity after 54 minutes.

Cibulkova did not convert three break points in the first game of the second set. Safarova went up a set and a break to race out to a 3-0 lead after winning 11 of her next 13 points. She earned a double break to race out a 4-0 lead after a nine-deuce fourth game which featured 22 points. Cibulkova got one break back to trail 1-4 but Safarova closed out on her second match point with a forehand winner after 1 hour and 49 minutes to qualify for her first quarter final of a Premier Mandatory since Madrid 2015. Safarova has scored her first win against a top 10 player since beating Angelique Kerber at the 2015 WTA Finals in Singapore.

“It was a great match and I am really excited to be for the first time here in the quarter final. I knew I had to come out really strong and play fast and not let Dominika play her game. She puts a lot of balls back and she is a very big fighter so I had to be really sharp and strong, which I was. I am really happy it worked out. Winning today means a lot. It feels great to be here again with the best players, being able to beat them means my level is there again”, said Safarova.

Safarova will face Wozniacki, who advanced to the quarter final as Muguruza retired from the match after losing the tie-break of the first set.

Karolina Pliskova beat Barbora Strykova 6-1 6-4 in an all-Czech third round match to reach the quarter final at this tournament for the second time in her career. The two Fed Cup teammates met just twice in their careers. Pliskova won their first head-to-head match in Dubai 2015, while Strykova won their most recent match in Birmingham in 2016.

Pliskova got an early break in the fourth game with a forehand return winner. This year’s Brisbane and Doha champion won 11 straight points and went up a double break in the sixth game with another forehand to race out to a 5-1 lead and served out for the first set to love at 6-1 after 23 minutes. Pliskova dropped just one point in four service games in the opening set, as she made a double fault

The second set started with a trade of breaks. Pliskova saved two game points on Strykova’s serve to break serve in the first game at deuce with a down the line forehand winner. Strykova broke straight back to 30 in the second game as Pliskova made a backhand error. Strykova held serve to take the lead for the first time in the match. Pliskova broke twice in the fifth game to love and again in the seventh game at deuce. As Pliskova was serving for the match at 5-2, Strykova got one break back with a forehand winner. Strykova held serve to love in the ninth game to claw her back into the second set to 4-5. Strykova took a 15-40 lead in the 10th game, as Pliskova was serving for the match. Pliskova saved three break points to close out the final game at deuce on her second opportunity.

Pliskova has reached her fifth quarter final of the season. She has not made it to the quarter final only in one tournament at Dubai where she lost to Kristina Mladenovic one week after her second title of the second in Doha.

Pliskova has clinched her 22nd win to just three losses of the season (she has the best record on the WTA tour this season). The Czech player will face either Mirjana Lucic Baroni or Bethanie Mattek Sands. Lucic Baroni beat Pliskova in three sets in the quarter finals of this year’s Australian Open. Pliskova leads 2-1 against Mattek Sands, altheough they have not clashed since 2014.

“It’s never easy to play against a player I know very well. Everything was fine, going well until 6-1 5-2. I didn’t serve well. I didn’t put any first serves in. She played some good games on her side. I was happy to close it because the end was tricky. She started to slice more. I was a little bit, not really shaking, but the end was a little bit shaky, so I was just happy to get through. Up to that point it was a really high level from my side. I was dictating and she didn’t have much time to play her game, to go to the net and play those slices because I was playing fast from the baseline. Until 6-1 5-2 I am really happy with how I played”, said Pliskova.

Caroline Wozniacki held a one-set lead after winning the first set at the tie-break, when Murguruza was forced to withdraw due to illness. Wozniacki set up a quarter final against Lucie Safarova. The Danish player has won four of her seven head-to-head matches against Safarova, but the Czech player prevailed in their most recent head-to-head match on hard-court in Sydney in 2014.

Muguruza led 3-1 in her head-to-head matches against Wozniacki, but they have not met met since Wimbledon 2015 when Muguruza prevailed 6-4 6-4.

After an early trade of breaks, Wozniacki held serve to love in the third game to take a 2-1 lead. In the fourth game Muguruza looked to be cruising to a hold of serve, when she took a 40-0 lead. Wozniacki earned two break points, as Muguruza made two double faults and got the break with a forehand return winner to take a 3-1 with a forehand before holding her serve to 15.

Muguruza bounced back by breaking serve on her fourth break point after a hard-fought 11-minute seventh game.

Muguruza served for the set at 5-4 but Wozniacki broke straight back to draw level to 5-5. Serving to stay in the set at 5-6, Muguruza saved a set point, when Wozniacki sent her backhand into the net. Muguruza hit her forehand down the line to force the set to the tie-break. Wozniacki earned the mini-break, as Wozniacki hit her fifth double fault. Wozniacki hit her second ace to race out to a 4-0 lead before earning five set points, as Muguruza made a double fault. Wozniacki closed out on her first set point, as Muguruza made an error. Muguruza called it a day after 75 minutes. This was the third time that Muguruza retired from a match this season.

 

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Pliskova And Konta Advance To Rome Final

Johanna Konta edged world n.4 Kiki Bertens while Karolina Pliskova scored a straight-set victory against Maria Sakkari

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Johanna Konta in Rome during the 2019 Internazionali BNL d'Italia (photo Roberto Dell'Olivo)

After a washout on Wednesday and a double duty day on Thursday, the Internazionali BNL d’Italia were bracing for another wet afternoon on Saturday. Eventually, the very cold spell of Italian spring that has so far marred the 2019 Italian Open decided to spare the Foro Italico on the first day of the final weekend and allowed the two women’s singles semifinals to take place with only one very short interruption.

 

In the first match, 28-year-old Brit Johanna Konta came back from one set down and only two points away from defeat to overcome Mutua Madrid Open champion and world n.4 Kiki Bertens 5-7, 7-5, 6-2. The Dutch woman seemed to be in control of the match after she swooped the first set winning the last three games in a row (from 4-5 to 7-5) imposing her offensive and defensive game over a nervous and tentative Konta, who also failed to consolidate an initial break in the second set by losing her serve for the third time in a row. However, as the match progressed Konta started shaking off her initial jitters and held her subsequent service game with authority. At 4-5 30-30, a shanked smash pinched the line and the following forehand volley winner sealed the 5-5, signing a progressive decline in Berten’s sharpness and aggressiveness. “I think everything was hard today to ignore – said Bertens in the post-match press conference – the court was really slippery, so it’s tough to move on. Especially I like it when it’s not so slippery so I can move a little bit better. With the wind, it was really tough. She played really smart with the dropshots. She did a good job in there. I was all the time getting myself together and trying to push for more energy. But, yeah, it was not there”.

At her first final on clay and at her first final in a Premier Five/Premier Mandatory tournament after her triumph in Miami in 2017, Konta describer her effort on court as a “continuous adjustment, a continuous openness to figure it out within the match. I stayed very open in trying to find a solution in each point […] after I lost the first set, I didn’t do much wrong. It was a very good set of tennis. Equally the second set, as well. There wasn’t anybody putting a bad foot out of line. In the third, I definitely felt that I was able to maintain my level a bit better than her. I think that gave me the upper hand in stringing some more points together”.

Konta will face in the final n.4 seed Karolina Pliskova, who during the late afternoon match defeated Greek qualifier Maria Sakkari 6-4, 6-4. Sakkari started the match extremely well taking an early 4-2 lead, but could not continue to produce the same level of tennis in the second part of the set and was surpassed by her better ranked opponent. “Your intensity just dropped by one percent – said Sakkari’s coach Tom Hill during an on-court coaching session at the end of the first set – that’s the only difference between the first games and the last in this first set”.

During the second set, Pliskova was always ahead in the score, and despite she was the player more under pressure on her serve during the first half of the set, she eventually managed to break her opponent to love on 5-4 closing the match after one hour, 27 minutes. “I’m super happy for this result because I don’t feel I have been playing my best tennis – said Pliskova after the match – coming into this week I felt I would probably win one match, possibly two, I’m very confident for Paris now”.

The head-to-head between Pliskova and Konta see the Czech having won four of the previous five matches at WTA level, plus further two at ITF level. The only win for Konta came in Beijing in 2016, when the Brit reached her first Premier Mandatory final.

 

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Johanna Konta Reaches Biggest Semi-Final Since 2017

Johanna Konta advanced to her first semi-final in Rome by beating Vondrousova in three sets, while Pliskova beat Azarenka.

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Johanna Konta (@InteBNLdItalia on Twitter)

Johanna Konta will contest the biggest match of her career since Wimbledon 2017 when she takes on Kiki Bertens in the semi-final of the Italian Open.

 

The Brit, who is celebrating her 28th birthday today, looked in excellent form during her 6-3 3-6 6-1 victory over rising star Marketa Vondrousova and she fully deserves her place in the last four.

Konta’s win seems even more impressive when you consider the two players the Czech, 19, beat to reach the quarter-final stage: Simona Halep and Daria Kasatkina.

With those scalps under her belt, Vondrousova would surely have fancied her chances against the Brit. However, that confidence quickly eroded after the World No.42 controlled the opening set.

Konta made a great start. She hit a series of deep backhands which pushed the Czech back as she almost got an immediate break.

Although Vondrousova held on, the Brit then earned three more chances in game three. She took the second to move into a 2-1 lead.

Konta dominated her service games to maintain her advantage for the rest of the set, and then broke the Czech again in game nine to clinch it.

To Vondrousova’s credit, she fought back well in the second set and eventually won it 6-3. However, the Brit knew what to do in the decider. She stepped into the court and attacked anything short. This enabled her to win six games in a row and seal her spot in the semi-final.

Azarenka’s impressive run comes to an end

Karolina Pliskova (@InteBNLdItalia on Twitter)

It has been a brilliant week in Rome for Victoria Azarenka, but her participation in the singles event is now over after a 6-7(5) 6-2 6-2 loss to Karolina Pliskova.

The Belarussian, 29, impressed during her three-set win over another top ten player – Elina Svitolina – in the second round, but she could not repeat the feat against the World No.7.

For Pliskova, the match against Azarenka represented a significant hurdle to negotiate. But she responded superbly to losing the first set by raising her game considerably to win the next two.

“Azarenka was playing good tennis today. She wasn’t missing much,” the Czech said in her press conference.

She continued, “It was a little bit windy, so I didn’t feel at my best in the first set. I don’t think my level was that bad, but I was too passive. To begin with, I wanted to kill myself after that set. Then I calmed down a bit and went for my shots a little bit more, which paid off.”

Pliskova’s reward will be a semi-final against either Maria Sakkari or Kristina Mladenovic. If it is the Greek, it will bring back memories of their encounter last year when the Czech famously lost her temper and damaged the umpire’s chair.

“I haven’t played Sakkari since Rome last year, so I think everybody is going to be waiting for this match – even me,” the World No.7 said. “The rematch has almost happened in a couple of tournaments recently, but she always lost before. I think she was scared to face me!”

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Kiki Bertens receives a walkover into the semifinal, as Naomi Osaka withdraws from the quarter final due to a right hand injury

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Last week’s Madrid Mutua Open champion Kiki Bertens overcame 2015 Rome finalist Carla Suarez Navarro 6-4 1-6 6-3 after 1 hour and 49 minutes to extend her winning streak to eight consecutive matches.

 

A rain wash-out on Wednesday forced Bertens to postpone her Rome campaign until Thursday and play two matches to advance to the quarter final.

Bertens overcame Amanda Anisimova 6-2 4-6 7-5 after being just two points from defeat in her first Thursday match before surviving another three-set battle against Carla Suarez Navarro.

Bertens went up a double break to take a 3-0 lead and held on her service games to seal the opening set on her fourth set point.

Suarez Navarro broke serve twice to clinch the second set 6-1 forcing the match to the third set.

Bertens broke twice in a row to race out to a 4-0 lead in the  decisive set. Suarez Navarro pulled one of the two breaks back. Bertens held on her next service games to seal the win to secure her spot in the quarter final.

“It was only fight today that got me through. It wasn’t the best tennis, but sometimes that happens where you just have to find a way. Luckily I found it. I got to hit yesterday morning because I was first on, so at 9 AM, I warmed up until 9.30, when I thought that maybe we will be able to go on court, but it did not happen. I was on site from 8 AM to 6 PM, so it was a long day, but for everyone. This morning I saw the schedule for 10 AM, so the alarm went off at 6.30. Not my best morning. After the first match, I felt more mentally fatigued, but a long second match, you feel it physically”, said Bertens.

The Dutch player has received a walkover into the semifinal after her quarter final rival Naomi Osaka was forced to withdraw from the tournament due to a right hand injury. Osaka also had to pull out of the Stuttgart Open because of an abdominal problem, but she reached the biggest clay quarter final of her career in Madrid, where she served for the match, but she lost to Belinda Bencic 3-6 6-2 7-5.

 

 

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