Maria Sharapova overpowers Barty in absorbing contest - UBITENNIS
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Maria Sharapova overpowers Barty in absorbing contest

Maria Sharapova maintained the form she found in Madrid with an encouraging three-set win over talented Australian Ashleigh Barty.

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Maria Sharapova produced a determined display to see off Ashleigh Barty 7-5 3-6 6-2 and set up a second round meeting with Dominika Cibulkova at the Italian Open.

The Russian found form for the first time this year during an impressive run to the last eight in Madrid, and she picked up where she left off in Rome.

After both players battled to holds in their opening service games, Sharapova forged ahead by breaking in game three.

The set then progressed smoothly for the Russian until she served for it at 5-4. She hit a backhand into the net and made a couple of forehand errors to go down 0-40. Barty took advantage. She manoeuvred her way to the net and put away an easy smash to seal the break.

However, the Australian wasted her return to parity. She made two double-faults to gift Sharapova a break point, and the five-time Grand Slam champion finished a brilliant point with a stunning cross-court forehand winner to take it, before holding to seal the set.

Barty fought back superbly in the second set. She used her extensive range of shots and her excellent court coverage to fight for every point and almost went up a break in game four.

Sharapova saved four break points on that occasion but the Australian was not deterred. She finally broke the Russian in game six before saving three break points to establish a 5-2 lead.

After Barty clinched the second set with a gutsy hold, neither player gave any quarter at the start of the decider, and consequently the first three games took 23 minutes to conclude.

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All three went with serve, although both Sharapova and Barty had to save three break points apiece to keep it that way.

After those gruelling games, the Russian seemed to free up. She unleashed some huge trademark strikes to break her Australian opponent in game four, and then blazed her way to an easy hold.

Suddenly Sharapova was just two games away from progressing. She dominated her next service game to go 5-2 up, and then produced a succession of huge groundstrokes to break Barty for victory.

Sharapova feeling content

After the win, Sharapova told wtatennis.com, “This tournament has been special in my career, and brought me some great matches. I’m a little bit more relieved this year…and just playing, and not worrying about anything else, which is nice.”

“The beauty of what we do is you don’t know until you go out and you play. Sometimes, you feel your best and you play great and you come out losing the match, and sometimes you don’t play so well and you come out winning the match.”

The Russian also praised her opponent. “It’s been a while since I played her, and she’s always been a very tough opponent for me to play. We’ve always had very difficult matches,” Sharapova said.

“She made me hit a lot of balls, and that’s the reason why she’s doing so well, seeded here and had the results that she has.”

No trouble for Svitolina

Defending champion Elina Svitolina breezed into the third round with a 6-1 6-2 demolition of Petra Martic in just 62 minutes. She dominated the match from start to finish and broke her Croatian opponent twice in each set.

The World No.4 will now play either Daria Kasatkina or Danielle Collins after the Russian thrashed Alja Tomljanovic 6-0 6-4 and the American qualifier upset Sorana Cirstea 6-3 4-6 6-4.

Elsewhere in Rome, Angelique Kerber edged out Zarina Diyas 6-2 7-6(6), Elena Vesnina beat Laura Siegemund 7-6(5) 6-2 and Timea Babos took out Sara Errani 6-3 7-6(6).

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Belinda Bencic storms into last four in Luxembourg

Belinda Bencic continued her impressive return to form by reaching the semi-finals in Luxembourg with a straight-sets win over Vera Lapko.

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Belinda Bencic reached the semi-final stage in Luxembourg in style with a comprehensive 6-4 6-1 victory over rising star Vera Lapko.

It has been an impressive return to form this week from the Swiss, who is now starting to climb back up the rankings (she will be back in the top 40 next week) after a series of injuries which have disrupted her last three years on the WTA tour.

Bencic came through three rounds of qualifying to earn her place in the main draw. She beat fellow qualifier Arantxa Rus in straight sets in the first round and then blew away ninth seed Kirsten Flipkens 6-1 6-3 to book her place in the quarter-finals.

Those results earned the Swiss a meeting with Lapko for the second tournament in a row. Last week in Linz, the Belarussian beat Bencic 1-6 6-1 6-0.

This time, it was a totally different story. The Swiss qualifier served superbly and dominated proceedings from the baseline to wrap up victory in 81 minutes.

Lapko pushed Bencic hard in the first set and, if she had taken either of the break points she created in the second game, the match may have gone differently.

However, the Swiss held serve, broke the Belarussian in game three and never looked back. The rest of the first set went with serve and Bencic then romped away with the second set.

Bencic to face Yastremska in semi-final clash

The World No.47 did not have to wait long after her match to discover her semi-final opponent. Dayana Yastremska swatted aside Margarita Gasparyan 6-1 6-4 in exactly an hour.

The Ukrainian, 18, who earned a headline-making win over Garbine Muguruza in the last 16, annihilated the Russian’s second serve to earn five breaks in the match.

It continues a run of eight consecutive wins for Yastremska, who won her first WTA title in Hong Kong last week.

The Ukrainian’s form makes her a very dangerous opponent for Bencic, but the Swiss looks confident too and it could be a thrilling semi-final.

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Dayana Yastremska upsets Garbine Muguruza in Luxembourg to score her first win over a top 20 player

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Last week’s Dayana Yastremska scored her first win against a top 20 player beating two-time Grand Slam champion and now world number 13 player Garbine Muguruza 6-2 6-3 after 1 hour and nine minutes in Luxembourg.

Ukraine’s 18-year-old Dayana Yastremska has claimed the best win of her career by ranking to reach the quarter final at the BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open.

Muguruza was pushed to deuce in her first two service games, but she managed to hold her serve both times. Yastremska broke twice to reel off the final four games to close out the first set 6-2.

Yastremska got an early break to open up a 2-0 lead, but Muguruza broke straight back. Both players drew level to 3-3 after four consecutive breaks. Yastremska built up a 5-3 lead after a break in the eighth game and served out for the match to secure her spot in the quarter finals.

“I was very tired after Hong Kong. I have pain everywhere. Yesterday during the match I felt very dizzy because I played very late. I just found some way to get over it and kept fighting. Today I prepared myself to win, but somewhere deep that I would not be able to show my best game, but somehow I just played”, said Yastremska.

Yastremska came to the fore in 2016, when she reached the doubles Girls final at the Australian Open and the Wimbledon Singles Junior final. She won her first ITF tournament in Brazil and made her WTA debut at the Istanbul Cup, where she lost in the first round to Nao Hibino. In 2017 the Ukrainian teenager won in the first round of the same Istanbul tournament beating Andrea Petkovic. She won her maiden WTA title in Hong Kong without dropping a set last week beating China’s Wang Qiang in the final. She rose 36 ranking places to reach her career high of world number 66.

The teenager beat Zheng Saisai, Belinda Bencic and Magda Linette at the Connecticut Cup in the qualifying round at the Connecticut Cup in New Haven.

In 2018 Yastremska made her Grand Slam debut in the qualifying round at the Australian Open, where she beat Misaki Doi, but she was beaten in the second round by Alexandra Dulgheru. After a strong summer Yastremska became the first player born in the 2000s to break into the top 100 in the WTA Ranking in July 2018.

 

 

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Vera Zvonareva sweeps aside Karolina Pliskova in Moscow to take her first top 10 win in seven years

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Russian qualifier and former world number 2 Vera Zvonareva swept aside this year’s Stuttgart and Tokyo champion Karolina Pliskova 6-1 6-2 in just 73 minutes at the VTB Kremlin Cup in Moscow to clinch her first top 10 win in seven years.  

Former Wimbledon and US Open finalist and 2008 Kremiin Cup finalist Zvonareva got her first top 10 win since she beat former world number 1 player at the 2011 WTA Finals.

Zvonareva, who has returned from her maternity leave, broke five times and hit 24 winners. Pliskova hit 15 winners to 26 unforced errors.

Zvonareva broke twice in the first set to race out to a 4-0 lead. The Russian player held a point for 5-0 before dropping her serve in the fifth game. She got another break for 5-1 after rallying from 0-40 down. Zvonareva held her serve at love to close out the opening set 6-1.

In the second set Zvonareva got an early break to take a 2-1 lead and saved a break point with her big serve to hold her serve for 3-1. In the sixth game Zvonareva went up a double break at 4-2 with a forehand down the line on the break point. She wrapped up the match on her fourth match point, as she was serving at 5-2.

Zvonareva has reached her first Premier-level quarter final since Charleston 2012.

“I really started to play much better than in my previous matches. I had a very difficult start. The first two matches were so tough. I didn’t show my best tennis, but I tried to fight, so I found the options to play my game. Today I managed to reach a high level and it finally happened”, said Zvonareva.

Aliaksandra Sasnovich edged past Kiki Bertens 6-3 4-6 6-3. Bertens needed to reach the semfinal to stay in contention for a qualifying spot for the WTA Finals in Singapore.

Sasnovich and Bertens went to deuce in the first two games of the opening set. Bertens earned three of the four break points in two consecutive games at 2-2 and 2-3, but Sasnovich saved them to held on her serve. Bertens saved another break point in the fifth game. Sasnovich earned the first break in the seventh game of the first set to take a 4-3 lead after a series of unforced errors from Bertens and won the final three games to close out the first set 6-3.

Bertens bounced back by breaking serve in the third game of the second set to take a 2-1 lead. The Dutch player led 3-2 after a series of three consecutive breaks. Sasnovich broke back at deuce in the eighth game to draw level to 4-4, but Bertens got another break in the ninth game and served out the second set at 15 to send the match to the third set.

Sasnovich broke serve in the second game of the decider to build up a 3-0 lead, but Bertens reeled off three consecutive games with a break in the fifth game to draw level to 3-3. Sasnovich broke serve at 15 in the eighth game to earn her chance to serve for the match. The Belarusian player had to save a break point before serving out the match at the fourth deuce.  Sasnovich clinched the second top 10 win of the year and the third of her career.

After Bertens’ defeat in Moscow, Pliskova and Elina Svitolina have secured the final two spots for the WTA Finals in Singapore. They have joined the eight-women field alongside Simona Halep, Angelique Kerber, Naomi Osaka, Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and Sloane Stephens. Bertens will be the first alternate.

Pliskova has secured her spot for Singapore after winning two titles in Stuttgart and Tokyo. She also reached the final in Tianjin and the semifinals in Brisbane and Madrid.

 

Ons Jabeur beat Sloane Stephens 6-3 6-2 to score the biggest win of her career. Stephens was defeated by a player ranked outside the top 100. Jabeur beat a top 10 player for the third time in her career after her wins over Dominika Cibulkova at 2017 Roland Garros and Simona Halep via retirement in Beijing in 2018.

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