Elise Mertens defeats Elina Svitolina for her first Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Ope - UBITENNIS
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Elise Mertens defeats Elina Svitolina for her first Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Ope

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Mertens upset the odds to knock out the World No.4 and reach her first grand slam semi-final (Zimbio.com)

22 year-old Belgian Elise Mertens continued her amazing start to 2018. The youngster defeated World No.4 Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-0 to reach the Australian Open semi-finals.

 

Both women came into the tournament in fantastic form. Mertens had won the pre-tournament event in Hobart, and Svitolina also came into the tournament unbeaten having won the title in Brisbane. Both were also looking to reach a grand slam semi-final for the first time.

It was the higher-ranked Ukrainian who would lose her 100% record in 2018. Things looked good for the favourite when she threatened the break in the opening Mertens service game of the match. The Belgian would hold a service game lasting seven minutes, before then breaking herself.

Svitolina was struggling with her first serve delivery. To make matters harder, she was winning very few points behind her second serve, putting additional pressure on that serve.

Mertens, already with a lead, broke again for 5-2, though was immediately pegged back when trying to serve out the first time. The World No.37 made no mistake the second time serving out to thirty.

Mertens played freely in the second set. She broke quickly, and backed it up with a love service hold. The pressure continued to hit the Svitolina second serve, and she was broken for the fourth time. Mertens survived a deuce hold, before breaking again. Svitolina tried to at least hold a game, but her serving percentage numbers stayed too low, as Mertens continued to ruthlessly break down the Ukrainian’s serve.

Mertens completed the win with a hold to win a one-sided second set. For Mertens, the win ensures that she takes her place in the last four of a grand slam for the first time. For World No.4 Svitolina, that elusive appearance in such a stage of a slam continues to elude her.

Mertens waits for Carla Suarez Navarro or second seed Caroline Wozniacki in the last four. Regardless of whether she wins that match, Mertens will move to a new career-high ranking somewhere inside the Top 20. Her current best ranking is No.35.

 

 

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Defending Champion Caroline Wozniacki Safely Negotiates Eastbourne Opener

Caroline Wozniacki started her bid for a third title in Eastbourne with a win, while Pliskova, Ostapenko and Vondrousova also secured victories.

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Caroline Wozniacki (@VolvoCarOpen on Twitter)

Caroline Wozniacki began the defence of her title in Eastbourne with a comfortable 6-3 6-4 win over Kirsten Flipkens at the Nature Valley International.

 

The Dane, 28, had not been on court for nearly a month and she has only played 18 matches so far this year due to illness and injury, but her lack of match practice did not seem to affect her too much.

Wozniacki took apart Flipkens’ serve in the opening set, breaking her three times. However, she was also broken twice – despite only facing three break points.

In the second set, the Belgian forced twice as many break points on the Dane’s serve. To Flipkens’ dismay, Wozniacki saved five of them. She also broke the World No.1 twice to take the set 6-4 and seal victory. The 11th seed will face Andrea Petkovic in round two.

Pliskova, Ostapenko and Vondrousova advance

After Karolina Pliskova suffered a surprise loss to sister Kristyna in Birmingham, she was keen to avoid a similar fate in Eastbourne.

It could have happened, too, as the Czech faced a tricky round two opponent in the shape of Margarita Gasparyan.

However, Pliskova ensured there would not be an upset this time. She dominated on serve in the opening set and broke the Russian in the second game to take it 6-3.

The Czech stormed into a 5-2 lead in the second set. Gasparyan staged a mini-fightback by earning her first break of the match. Pliskova then broke the Russian again to book her place in round three.

Jelena Ostapenko put her shock loss in Birmingham behind her with a 6-4 6-4 success over Mihaela Buzarnescu. The Latvian was broken early in both sets but she recovered well both times to earn a second-round clash with Sloane Stephens.

Marketa Vondrousova swept aside Zheng Saisai 6-2 6-3 in her first match since her remarkable run to the French Open final. The bout was interrupted by rain but the Czech, 19, kept her composure to earn a second-round meeting with Elise Mertens.

Svitolina faces fight to stay in the tournament

It was a frustrating day for the fans in Eastbourne as play was frequently delayed by rain. By contrast, several players are probably grateful that the weather intervened.

Chief among those is 5th seed Elina Svitolina, who was a set and a break down to Alize Cornet when the return of the rain forced the tournament referee to call a halt to the day’s play.

Zarina Diyas is in a similar situation. She trailed Lesia Tsurenko 6-2 3-0 when the rain came but she will get a chance to make a comeback tomorrow.

The early finish to the day will also give Belinda Bencic some much-needed extra rest. She was due to play qualifier Veronika Kudermetova in the last match on Court One about 25 hours after she narrowly lost the Mallorca final to Sofia Kenin, but their clash must now take place tomorrow instead.

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Sofia Kenin saves three match points to claim Mallorca title

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US 20-year-old Sofia Kenin fought back from one set down to beat Belinda Bencic 6-7 (2-7) 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 after two hours and 42 minutes at the Mallorca Open on grass. Kenin saved three match points in the 10th game of the second set.

 

The first set was marked by 12 break points. Bencic went up an early break to take a 3-0 lead, but Kenin reeled off four consecutive games to take a 4-3 lead. Bencic got the break back to draw level to 4-4. The young Swiss player went up a 3-0 lead, but Kenin got the mini-break back for 2-3 after a forehand winner. Bencic earned four set points at 6-2 and converted her first chance.

The second set went on serve in the first eight games without a break point before Bencic got the break in the ninth game. She earned three championship points, as she was serving for the title in the 10th game.

Kenin fended them and fired a forehand passing winner to earn a break point.

Kenin broke back with a backhand winner. In the tie-break Kenin fired a backhand down the line winner to open up a 5-2 lead.

The US player earned four set points at 6-2. Bencic saved the first three chances, but Kenin converted her fourth opportunity to take the tie-break 7-5, when Bencic hit a return long.

Both players held serve in the first eight games of the third set before Kenin earned the decisive break in the ninth game with a backhand winner crosscourt on her second break point chance. The US player served out the match with a hold in the 10th game on the first championship point as Bencic hit a return into the net.

Kenin will travel to Eastbourne, where she will face Samantha Stosur in the opening round.

“Hard work is paying off. I am playing really well, fighting for every point, and taking as much advantage as I can. This is really great, and I am just so happy with how I am playing”,said Kenin.

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Ashleigh Barty Becomes World No.1 With Glory In Birmingham

Ashleigh Barty won the Nature Valley Classic and went to World No.1 by beating Julia Goerges in a high-quality final.

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Ashleigh Barty (@the_LTA on Twitter)

Ashleigh Barty is the new World No.1 and the 2019 Nature Valley Classic champion after she defeated Julia Goerges 6-3 7-5 in the final in Birmingham.

 

The Australian’s victory is an ideal way to follow up her maiden Grand Slam title at Roland Garros. It also extends her current win streak to 12 matches and reflects her newly-acquired status of hardest player to beat on the WTA tour.

“(Going to No.1) was a very different feeling to winning the French Open,” Barty said. “The French in particular felt like a whirlwind and it’s just hard to put into words what we have been able to achieve over the last few years. To be where we are now is just incredible.”

Barty’s success has seen her follow in the footsteps of legendary Australian tennis player Evonne Goolagong. “I think I’m nowhere near her status,” the young Australian said. “To be mentioned in the same sentence is incredible.”

She continued, “Evonne is an amazing human being and has set the tone for so many Australians and so many indigenous Australians around our country and around the world. What she did in her career was incredible and what she continues to do off the court for us as a sport is amazing. To have her as a friend is amazing too and I’m sure I will be able to chat to her in the next few days.”

Goerges starts well but makes costly errors

Goerges made the stronger start to the match. She hit three amazing forehands in Barty’s opening service game and a total of six winners in the first four games. She also hit four aces.

However, the Australian stayed with her, and her steadiness paid dividends in game six as the German made six unforced errors during a sloppy service game to hand Barty a crucial break.

For the rest of the set, Goerges cut a frustrated figure and she made five more unforced errors to make it easy for the Australian to close it out 6-3.

Barty edges high-quality second set

Ashleigh Barty (@the_LTA on Twitter)

The standard in the second set was superb. Goerges produced a series of lethal forehands to break in game two and then hit three aces in the next game to open up a 3-0 lead.

However, the German then made four consecutive unforced errors to surrender her serve in game five and suddenly the set was back in the balance.

The next four games were sprinkled with moments of brilliance. Barty hit a great passing shot and Goerges finished off an excellent point with a fantastic drop shot volley. The Australian also produced an improbably precise backhand winner, while the German unleashed her best backhand of the match to save a break point in game nine.

The end result of those games was a 5-4 scoreline in Goerges’ favour. This allowed the German to hit freely against Barty’s serve and she played some delightful shots to earn a set point.

Then the Australian demonstrated her ability to deliver under intense pressure. She hit an ace to save it and shortly afterwards produced another ace and an unreturnable serve to level the score at 5-5.

Goerges did not cope well with having that opportunity snatched away from her. She made a double fault and unforced error to give Barty a chance to break, and the Australian took it by forcing another error from the German.

Barty made serving for the championship look easy. She sent down an ace that landed on the service line and hit a classy forehand winner to claim two of the points, while Goerges made two unforced errors to hand her the other two.

When Goerges met Barty

After the match, it was obvious how happy the German was about her friend’s success. “Ash and I have a long story,” Goerges said. “When she was 15 years old and she got a wild card for the French Open, I was always talking to her, we had a lot of fun moments and then she retired.”

She continued, “I always thought she will come back one day because she loves the sport so much, but she just had enough at that time. We stayed in contact while she was playing cricket and to be able to share this moment with her was something special. If I had to choose to lose someone to today to become the No. 1, I would definitely pick her. That’s why it was very emotional for me.”

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