Caroline Wozniacki advanced to the quarter-final of the Italian Open for the second time in her career thanks to a hard fought 6-2 5-7 6-3 victory over Anastasija Sevastova.
The World No.2, who revealed earlier today that she struggles with allergies at the Foro Italico venue, reached the semi-final stage in 2011 but has failed to repeat that feat ever since.
Maybe this year will be different for Wozniacki. She started brilliantly against Sevastova and dominated the opening set with great movement and excellent shot-making.
The tricky Latvian raised her game in the second set and, after trading two breaks apiece with the Dane, she earned a crucial third break in game eleven to take the match into a decider.
Any final set against Wozniacki is always likely to be difficult because of the Dane’s exceptional fitness. And so it proved, as the World No.2 ran her Latvian opponent ragged to win it 6-3.
It was a high-quality encounter throughout and Wozniacki had to produce some of her best-ever clay-court tennis to come through it. She hit a clutch of stunning drop shots that we probably would not see from her on another surface.
On the other hand, Sevastova is known for her varieties and she made use of her full range of shots. From 5-5 in the second set, she hit a succession of unerringly accurate winners as she won 8 out of 10 points to ensure the match went the distance.
Wozniacki’s reward for coming through this testing encounter is a last-eight clash with Anett Kontaveit. In round three, the Estonian beat Venus Williams for the second consecutive week and she will almost certainly make life difficult for the Dane.
In the other half of the draw, Maria Sharapova marched on to a quarter-final showdown with Jelena Ostapenko by easing past Daria Gavrilova 6-3 6-4.
The Australian was back on court less than 15 hours after defeating Garbine Muguruza in a three-hour epic. And she struggled to cope with the Russian’s powerful ball-striking early on as she went 4-1 down.
Gavrilova got into the match in game six by forcing Sharapova to battle for over 11 minutes to hold serve. She then earned her first break of the match in game eight, only to lose her serve (again) and the set immediately afterwards.
In truth, neither player served well and it got even worse in that regard in the second set. Gavrilova, who failed to win a single point on her second serve, lost serve four times and Sharapova, whose first-serve percentage was just 56%, dropped serve on three occasions.
Fittingly, the five-time Grand Slam Champion wrapped up victory with a break in the tenth game to reach her second successive Premier quarter-final.
Sharapova feels good on court
“I like the way I’m competing,” Sharapova said in her press conference. “I like the way I feel out there and I think that’s really important. It’s an inner feeling, sometimes maybe not something you can put into words.”
“But I just like the attitude I am playing with,” she continued. “I might have physical limitations going deep in the tournament. That’s normal for all players. We have to handle it the best that we can, playing back to back.
“But I like the intensity that I’m bringing. I like that, no matter the small ups and downs that I’ve had, I’m still able to deliver and be aggressive. I like that attitude – I think that’s the most important thing that’s come out of these matches.”
Impressive Garcia marches on
There was much better serving on display in another of the last-16 matches in Rome. Caroline Garcia had a first serve percentage of 75% and won 78% of points behind those serves as she beat Sloane Stephens 6-1 7-6(7).
The Frenchwoman has reached two successive semi-finals during a superb clay season so far, and she looked in total control as she blazed her way to the first set in just 26 minutes.
Stephens knuckled down and fought for every point during an infinitely tighter second set. However, it was Garcia who held her nerve in the tie-break to wrap up a straight-sets win and book a last-eight meeting with Simona Halep.
[Also published on womenssporthub.com]
Why Newly Married Elina Svitolina Has No Plans To Change Her Surname
The Ukrainian explains why she isn’t using her husband’s surname of Monfils just yet as she books her place in the third round at Tokyo 2020.
Just over a week ago Elina Svitolina tied the knot with her long-time partner Gael Monfils at a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland.
Shortly after the world No.6 took to social media and changed her name on Twitter to Elina Monfils as part of the tradition that the woman takes on the man’s name once they are married. As a consequence, various websites started to identify the Ukrainian under that name. Although she would rather that they don’t do such a thing.
“I don’t know why they changed my surname. Maybe they saw that I had changed it on my social networks,” Svitolina told BTU.
“I’m going to play as Svitolina till the very end of my professional career and will change it only after retirement.”
Svitolina explains she believes it is better if all of her achievements are made under the same name instead of two. So far in her career she has won 15 WTA titles, reached two Grand Slam semi-finals and has earned more than $20.5M in prize money.
“I had numerous achievements and people know me as Svitolina. My father would be upset if I changed the surname and played as Monfils,” she joked.
“I am proud to be Svitolina and my tennis career will always be connected with this surname.”
Over the coming week the 26-year-old is hoping to add an Olympic medal to her resume. On Monday Svitolina survived a stern scare after coming back from a set down to defeat Ajla Tomljanović 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and move into the third round of the tournament. Her win came on the day where there were shocks galore in the women’s draw with seeds Aryna Sabalenka, Iga Swiatek and Petra Kvitova all crashing out.
Svitolina will play Greece’s Maria Sakkari in the next round whom she has lost to in two out of their three previous meetings.
Why Ash Barty Isn’t Staying At The Olympic Village In Tokyo
The two-time Grand Slam champion has opted to stay at an alternate venue heading into the Games.
Ash Barty will prepare for her debut at the Olympic Games by staying at a base located outside of the athletes village as part of her ‘performance plan.’
The world No.1 heads into Tokyo as one of the favourites for gold following her triumph at Wimbledon where she defeated Karolina Pliskova in the final. She is one of six top 10 players set to play in the women’s singles tournament which will start on Saturday.
Leading up to the Games, the head of the Australian Olympic delegation has told reporters that Barty’s decision not to stay in the village will enhance her gold medal chances. In previous Games athletes have stayed outside of the villages but this year it is more challenging to do so due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tokyo is currently in a state of emergency and fans are banned from attending the event amid fears of the virus spreading if they do so.
“Ash is staying elsewhere,” chef de mission Ian Chesterman told the Australian Associated Press.
“We have a number of athletes staying outside the village. We allow that, it’s just what works best for them.
“Something I’ve always been very big on is driving performance takes a whole lot of flexible decisions, flexible options.
“In terms of her performance plan, it’s best served by her being able to control her environment and we respect that.”
The exact location of Barty’s base has not been disclosed but it is near to the village where she was said to have visited and had a cup of coffee on Tuesday morning.
“She is staying in an Australian environment where she can still easily access the village,” Chesterman stated.
The 25-year-old is bidding to become only the second Australian in history to win a medal in the women’s singles at the Olympics. The first was Alicia Molik who claimed a bronze medal back in 2004.
During a recent interview with The ITF, Barty said playing at the event is a dream come true for her as she describes representing her country as the ‘highest honour.’
“Being an Olympian has always been a dream of mine as a kid, I think representing your country is the highest honour,” Barty told the ITF.
“For an Aussie it’s the best thing you can do and I can’t wait to have an opportunity to wear the green and gold.
“You’re playing for something bigger than yourself. You’re playing to represent your nation. You’re playing to make people proud and that’s not just with results it’s with your attitude.”
Bianca Andreescu pulls out of Tokyo Olympics
The world number five has officially pulled out of the Olympics in Tokyo stating reasons due to the ongoing pandemic situation.
Bianca Andreescu will not be making the trip to Tokyo to play in the Olympics after withdrawing due to the current pandemic situation.
The former US Open champion issued a statement concerning what she describes as a ‘difficult decision.’ Andreescu is the latest top name to pull out of the Olympics. Last week Nick Kyrgios also said he wouldn’t be playing for similar reasons. Due to a a surge of COVID-19 cases in Tokyo, the city has gone into a state of emergency which prompted organisers to ban spectators from attending Olympic events in the city. Athletes will be subjected to tough restrictions during their time at the event, as well as regular testing.
” I would like to inform you that I have made the very difficult decision to not play in the Tokyo Olympics later this month,” Andreescu wrote on Instagram. “I have been dreaming of representing Canada at the Olympics since I was a little girl but with all the challenges we are facing as it relates to the pandemic, I know that deep in my heart, this is the right decision to make for myself. I look forward to representing Canada in future Fed Cup ties, and competing at the 2024 Olympics in Paris! “
The Canadian hasn’t played since losing in the first round of Wimbledon to Alize Cornet of France and most recently split with her coach Sylvain Brunneau after a four-year partnership.
Her 2021 season has been up and down starting in Australia where she lost in the second round before making the semifinals at the Phillips Island Trophy event. She then made the final at the Miami Open before taking a fall in the final against Ash Barty and was forced to retire due to injury.
Then the clay-court season came and Andreescu tested positive for Covid. She was forced to miss events in Madrid and Rome, so she headed to Strasbourg for some preparation before the French Open. The world No.5 won two matches in Strasbourg before pulling out due to an ab injury. She then lost in the first round of the French Open.
The Canadian moved on to the grass-court season heading to Berlin but again would get upset in the first round by Alize Cornet before winning one round in Eastbourne and losing to Anett Kontaveit.
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