Australian Open: Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova Drawn In Same Quarter - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open: Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova Drawn In Same Quarter

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The draw for the 2018 Australian Open has been made and reigning world number one Simona Halep could face Garbine Muguruza in the semifinals, whilst Elina Svitolina and Caroline Wozniacki are also on course to meet in the last four.

With seven-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams missing her fourth successive Grand Slam tournament, there will be a new champion in Melbourne and six players have the chance to become the world number one.

The world number one, Simona Halep is bidding to win her first Grand Slam singles title in Melbourne, and she has a tricky path of becoming the last woman standing, whilst Caroline Wozniacki is back at world number two in the world, she will be looking to seize the opportunity of winning an elusive major as she has been handed a relatively kind draw.

Top seed Halep has not won a match in Melbourne since reaching the quarterfinals in 2015 as she has suffered first round defeats in her last two visits. The two-time Australian Open quarterfinalist opens her campaign against Australian wildcard Destanee Aiava. Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, the 27th seed could await in the third round, and either Australia’s 18th seed Ashleigh Barty and or No.16 seed Elena Vesnina could be Halep’s fourth round opponent.

Former world number one Karolina Pliskova, the sixth seed could be Halep’s potential quarterfinal opponent in Melbourne. The Czech faces Veronica Cepede Royg in the first round, and the Paraguayan almost upset Pliskova on Court Suzanne Lenglen at the French Open last year. Pliskova could face fellow Czech, the No.29 seed Lucie Safarova in the third round, and a mouthwatering clash with ninth seed Johanna Konta could be on the cards in round four.

Second seed Wozniacki can ease her way into the tournament as she faces Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu. It is a winnable first round match for the 2011 semifinalist. Should the Dane advance she could face 15th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who reached the quarterfinals last year, completing her set of reaching the quarterfinals at every Grand Slam.

French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, the seventh seed or last year’s semifinalist Coco Vandeweghe, seeded 10th could prove to be a tricky obstacle for Wozniacki to overcome in the quarterfinals. Ostapenko defeated the Dane in three sets in the quarterfinals en route to winning Roland Garros last June, and Vandeweghe overpowered the second seed in their fourth round encounter at Wimbledon last year.

Third seed  Garbine Muguruza has a nightmare mini-section of the draw to deal with as she aims to win her first Grand Slam hardcourt title. She begins her campaign against a French wildcard in Jessika Ponchet. Should she progress, the two-time major winner could face 26th seed Agnieszka Radwanska, a two-time semifinalist in Melbourne in the last four years in the third round, a resurgent 2016 Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber or 2008 winner Maria Sharapova could be formidable fourth round opponents.

Sharapova faces Germany’s Tatjana Maria in the first round, and she could face 14th seed Anastasia Sevastova in the second round. The Latvian upset the five-time Grand Slam winner in their fourth round clash at the US Open last year.

Last year’s runner-up Venus Williams has a mouthwatering first round clash with Belinda Bencic. The Swiss won the Hopman Cup with Roger Federer on Sunday but it could be an omen for the seven-time Grand Slam winner as her sister Serena defeated Bencic in the first round last year, and went on to win the title.

Williams could face 31st Ekaterina Makarova, who is a regular fixture in the latter stages in Melbourne in the third round and either the in-form 12th seed Julia Goerges or Australia’s 23rd seed Daria Gavrilova in round four.

Fourth seed Elina Svitolina could meet Williams in the quarterfinals but she opens her campaign against a qualifier, and should she reach the second round, the Ukranian will have to be on the top of her game, when she faces Maria Sakkari or Katerina Siniakova. US Open champion Sloane Stephens, seeded 13th could meet Svitolina in round four.

The Australian Open gets underway on Monday 15th January.

 

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Caroline Wozniacki’s Father Criticises WTA For Lack Of Help For Mothers On Tour

Caroline Wozniacki was not given a wildcard for Rome or Roland Garros.

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(@WTA - Twitter)

Piotr Wozniacki has labelled the WTA as ‘amateur’ for their treatment of mothers on tour as he claims that Caroline Wozniacki should have had more wildcards.

The former Australian Open champion has played ten events since she announced her comeback last year.

Wozniacki has recovered her ranking to 117 in the world and her comeback has resulted in a fourth round appearance at the US Open as well as a quarter-final result at Indian Wells.

However the Dane has not been successful in gaining wildcards recently with both Rome and Roland Garros not offering Wozniacki one.

It’s a decision that Wozniacki’s father, Piotr, has not been happy with as he explained with Sport.PL, “The WTA believes that it is operating in an amateur fashion in the world of the largest professional women’s sport of all sports in the world. They sign contracts with the players and the players are obliged to do certain things under these contracts. And what do they get? Nothing, really nothing!” Piotr was quoted by tennisuptodate as saying.

“All wild cards, and there were 8 of them, were given to the Italians. I understand promoting their players, but how can you give the right to play in a tournament of this rank to such girls who should not even think that they could play in a Masters yet?

“Caroline was number one in her ranking. She won a Grand Slam tournament, won the Masters, played in almost 60 finals of their tournaments and won 30. So we are talking about a complete tennis player, someone who did a great job, who certainly increased the popularity of tennis, who earned a lot of money herself, but let them earn money. even much more.

“And it turns out that when someone like Caroline Wozniacki comes back as Caroline Wozniacki and family, she is no longer welcome. We can’t even prepare Caroline’s starting plan! We train, we prepare, and it turns out that there is nothing to do.

“This is happening because today in tennis everything is based only on relationships, on acquaintances, and not on clear rules. The thing is that if we know the organizers or tournament directors, we get a chance to play, but if we don’t know someone somewhere, they don’t want us there.

“Naturally, after the maternity break, my daughter had zero points. It takes a lot of time to start from scratch and reach the top, but we would do it patiently, but how can we do it when you don’t let a girl like that work for it? The rules in tennis today are such that there is no longer a mandatory wild card for someone who was once in the top 20, had a long break and came back.

“This card was really helpful for tennis players coming back after having a baby and for those coming back from serious injuries. And now Caroline, Angelique Kerber or Naomi Osaka are dependent only on someone else’s decisions. Since last year, all wild cards are the property of the tournaments, and the WTA washes its hands of them.”

It’s clear the Wozniacki family is disappointed as the Dane could be set to cancel her comeback next year.

However there is optimism that Wozniacki will receive one at Wimbledon as she has had past success on grass courts.

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Iga Swiatek Demolishes Aryna Sabalenka To Seal Third Rome Title

Iga Swiatek claimed her third Rome title after a dominant victory over Aryna Sabalenka.

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Iga Swiatek claimed her third Rome title by dominating Aryna Sabalenka 6-2 6-3 to send a big message of intent ahead of Roland Garros.

The world number one completed the Madrid and Rome double with a sensational performance.

Now Swiatek is the titleholder for the three biggest clay court titles as she will aim to defend her Roland Garros title.

The contest was a rematch from the Madrid final but this was far from the three hour contest that was produced in Spain.

Swiatek raised her level of play while Sabalenka committed way too many unforced errors throughout the contest.

The Pole broke on two occasions to wrap up a comfortable 37 minute set as her forehand was doing a lot of damage.

There was a comeback in the second set from the Australian Open champion as she produced effortless and consistent power, making the second set very competitive.

The world number one was forced to save break points as she just managed to be more stable on big moments.

A more controlled second set from Swiatek was rewarded towards the end of the set as once again Sabalenka crumbled under pressure when it mattered.

Two late breaks of serve completed the Swiatek surge as the Pole enters the second Grand Slam of the season in dominant form.

As for Sabalenka it’s a disappointing performance that she will look to put right at Roland Garros.

Roland Garros starts on the 26th of May where Swiatek is defending champion.

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Internazionali d’Italia Daily Preview: Sascha Zverev Plays Nicolas Jarry for the Men’s Singles Championship

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Nicolas Jarry on Friday night in Rome (twitter.com/InteBNLdItalia)

Sunday features three championship matches: the finals in men’s singles, men’s doubles, and women’s doubles.

On Sunday in Rome, Sascha Zverev will play for his first Masters 1000 title in over two years, while Nicolas Jarry will play in his first-ever final above ATP 250 level.  Zverev leads their head-to-head 4-2, but they are tied at 2-2 on clay.  Which man will walk away with the title?


Sascha Zverev (3) vs. Nicolas Jarry (21) – Not Before 5:00pm on Center Court

Zverev is 27-9 this season, and lost only one set on his way to this championship match.  That came in the semifinals against another Chilean, Alejandro Tabilo.  This is Sascha’s first ATP final since September of last year, and he’s playing for his first Masters 1000 title since 2021 in Cincinnati.  Zverev will soon go on trial in his home country of Germany, as he faces charges of domestic abuse.

Just like eventual champion Andrey Rublev in Madrid, Jarry arrived in Rome on a four-match losing streak.  And he had never advanced beyond the quarterfinals at a Masters 1000 tournament, so this result is quite surprising.  But 28-year-old Jarry is a tall presence (6’7”) who thumps the ball.  As per Tennis Channel, he was averaging 89 mph on his forehand during his three-set semifinal victory over Tommy Paul.  Nico has claimed a trio of three-setters on the way to the biggest match of his career, most notably upsetting Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals.

Zverev certainly has a huge edge in experience at this level, and in finals.  This is his 33rd ATP final, where he holds a record of 21-11.  And it’s his 11th Masters 1000 final, where he is 5-5.  Jarry has only previously appeared in six finals, all at 250-level, where he is 3-3.  But clay is the Chliean’s specialty, as all seven of his career finals have come on this surface.

Yet sometimes experience has a negative impact, particularly when you have suffered some painful losses.  Zverev has lost four of his last six Masters 1000 finals, and he is infamously 1-6 in Major semifinals.  So he has a lot of recent scar tissue from high-profile matches.

In that way, Jarry may benefit from a lack of experience.  While he’ll certainly be nervous on this big occasion, Nico has displayed plenty of confidence and composure against more experienced players throughout this event.  And he owns two prior victories over Zverev.  But when these two met in another final, five years ago in Geneva, Sascha saved two championship points to prevail.  That’s a result that sticks with both players throughout their rivalry.

However, I’m picking Jarry to pull off the upset and win the biggest title of his career on Sunday.  Zverev has a history of getting tight and playing more defensively in crucial moments.  Jarry’s aggressive mindset can take full advantage of such passive play.  And with so many top ATP players currently battling injuries, Zverev will likely feel a lot of pressure to win this title ahead of Roland Garros, especially as the much higher seed on this day.


Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (1) vs. Marcelo Arevalo and Mate Pavic – The top seeds are playing for their sixth Masters 1000 title as a team, and own a record of 5-1 in finals at this level.  Arevalo and Pavic are vying for the first Masters 1000 title of their new partnership for 2024.  Both teams are yet to drop a set this fortnight. 

Coco Gauff and Erin Routliffe (3) vs. Sara Errani and Jasmine Paolini – This is the first tournament for the team of Gauff and Routliffe, though both have won big doubles titles with other partners.  This is the biggest final to date for the Italian team of Errani and Paolini, though Errani won five WTA 1000 doubles titles alongside Roberta Vinci a decade ago, while Paolini won the WTA 1000 event in Dubai earlier this year in singles.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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