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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After Latest Australian Open Win, Naomi Osaka Creates History Once Again

The world No.4 reflects on her current form as she climbs to a new ranking high.

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Naomi Osaka (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

A straight sets win over Elina Svitolina didn’t just reward Naomi Osaka a place in the semi-finals of the Australian Open, it has also sealed her place in the history books.

The 21-year-old roared to a 6-4, 6-1, victory over an injury-stricken Svitolina, who was bothered by issues with her shoulder and neck throughout the match. Osaka has become the first Japanese woman to reach the last four in Melbourne since Kimiko Date in 1994. Not only that, the victory has secured her a spot in the world’s top 3 next week. Making Osaka the first player from her country – man or woman – to achieve the milestone in the history of the sport.

“This is something that I have been working on a lot, which is trying to get deeper in tournaments more consistently. I think I have been able to do that.” Osaka commented afterwards.
“Right now I just try to keep looking forward. So I’m not really satisfied, I am happy that I’m here (in the semi-finals), but at the same time, I want to keep going. There is more matches to win.”

Already the first player from her country in the Open Era to win a grand slam title in singles, the current world No.4 is eager to add to her collection. Her consistency on the tour has improved in recent months. Since her US Open win, Osaka has reached the semi-finals or better in four out of five tournaments she has played in. The only exception was the WTA Finals where she lost all of her round robin matches.

“You want to do the next big thing. And especially now that I won a Grand Slam, and I feel like I want to win another one, and I’m so close and I just want to keep going.” she said.

Guided on the tour by coach Sascha Bajin, who received the inaugural WTA coach of the Year award in 2018, Osaka credits one thing to her rise – an ‘inner peace.’ In recent time she hasn’t been afraid to express her emotions on the court. Earlier this year at the Brisbane International, the American-based player said she had the ‘worst attitude’ and was ‘sulking’ during her match against Lesia Tsurenko.

It appears Osaka is struggling to find a right balance between showing too much and too little emotion on the court. However, she wants to stick with a more quiet and reserve personality.

“Most people know me for US Open, right? And during the US Open, I didn’t show any emotions most of the time.” She explained.
“When I’m not calm, it just makes my life harder. There is an inner peace I can tap into sometimes during my matches, and it’s kind of hard to get to, but once I’m there, it’s really easy. Not easy, but nothing can really bother me. So that’s just something that I’m trying to learn how to do consistently.” Osaka added.

Osaka is now in sight of the world No.1 ranking. As it currently stands, she will claim the top position unless Petra Kvitova reaches the final or Karolina Pliskova wins the title. If she reaches the final, she will become world No.1 unless Kvitova wins the title. Osaka can also secure the position be winning the Australian Open title.

In the semi-finals, Osaka will take on Pliskova, who knocked Serena Williams out in three sets. She currently trails their head-to-head 1-2.

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Karolina Pliskova Stuns Serena Williams With An Epic Comeback

Serena Willams was trailing by one set and one break. She rolled her right ankle on match point and then went on to dissipate a 5-1 lead in the third set

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Karolina Pliskova - Australian Open 2019 (via Twitter, @AustralianOpen)

It’s one of those matches that fans will remember for a very long time. One of the most incredible collapses by Serena Williams, most certainly impaired by an ankle incident occurred while she was just a few points from the finish line, who squandered a 5-1 lead in the deciding set to lose a match she had recovered after having been down by a set and a break. Karolina Pliskova played an excellent first set, was almost paralyzed by tension when she served up 3-2 in the second set and almost gave the match away in the third. “My mind was in the locker room, but I was still here,” she said immediately after her victory, as while Serena Williams was slowly crumbling in front of her, she managed to keep her cool in a sunny and windy day in Melbourne to pull off this amazing comeback.

The beginning was very cautious for both player: it was a hot day and they both respected each other. Serena’s start was particularly slow, her first serve was at least 20 km/h slower than usual and Pliskova took advantage of it with an early break and a 3-1 lead. The American champion “woke up” at 1-3 0-40 when facing three chances to go down a double break when she put the foot down on her serve and managed not to let her opponent run away in the first set. But it still wasn’t the best Williams, unable to limit her unforced errors and incapable of making a dent in Pliskova’s serve. After 40 minutes of play, the Czech player won the first set 6-4 clinching her fist towards her coach Conchita Martinez in the stands.

Williams continued to struggle on her serve, especially on the “sunny” side of Rod Laver Arena, she had to face break points on the first game of the second set while still unable get any chances to break Pliskova. Another tentative service game for Serena at 2-2 gave Karolina the crucial advantage of a break, but at that point, Pliskova did not have the instinct to kill the match an 8-points to 1 streak got the American back in the game. From that moment, Serena Williams won nine of the following eleven games and looked on her way to her 50th Grand Slam semifinal, when the unexpected happened: what looked like a minor wiggle at William’s right ankle turned out to be the key of the match. One game at a time Pliskova came back from 1-5 down in the third set, brushed off four match points and managed to pull off one of the most surprising comebacks of her career to reach her first Australian Open semifinal.

Karolina Pliskova on Thursday will face Naomi Osaka who defeated Svitolina in two sets.

 

 

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Naomi Osaka Swats Aside Svitolina To Move Ahead In Race For No.1

Naomi Osaka progressed to the Australian Open semi-final and moved ahead in the race for World No.1 with a dominant win over Svitolina.

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Naomi Osaka (Australian Open Twitter account - @AustralianOpen)

Naomi Osaka continued her impressive rise to the top with a commanding 6-4 6-1 win over Elina Svitolina that sealed her place in the Australian Open semi-finals.

The result moves the Japanese player, 21, into pole position in the race for World No.1 and she will stay there unless Petra Kvitova reaches the final or Karolina Pliskova wins the tournament.

The first five games of the opening set of the quarter-final were closely-contested, but both players still held serve without ever being taken to deuce.

All of that changed in the sixth game. Osaka really started to trouble Svitolina with her weight of shot, and the Ukrainian eventually succumbed to the third break point she faced.

The Japanese player surrendered her advantage immediately with a poor service game. Then she re-discovered her rhythm immediately to break Svitolina again.

But the World No.6 justifiably has a reputation as a fighter, and she drew on all her battling qualities to break straight back for the second time in a row.

That made it 5-4 to Osaka, and many would have expected the set to settle down again at this point. It did not happen, as the Japanese player put the Ukrainian’s serve under pressure again to force 0-40 three break points.

Svitolina dug in to save all three but, when she faced a fourth, she netted a backhand and the set went to Osaka.

Osaka races through the second set

Elina Svitolina (photo by chryslène caillaud, copyright @Sport Vision)

The World No.6 completely fell apart on serve in the second game of the second set. Consequently, she rapidly found herself facing a set and 0-3 deficit in the match.

At the changeover, Svitolina called for the trainer because she was suffering from pain in her right shoulder. She received some treatment and then the action continued.

Victory looked almost certain for the reigning US Open champion at this stage. And she cemented that impression when she – incredibly – broke the Ukrainian for the fifth time in succession to make it 4-0.

Osaka had a slight wobble in game five. She made a couple of unforced errors to hand Svitolina a break point.

However, the World No.6 did not take advantage of the chance and, although she finally held serve in game six, she must have known the fight was over.

The Japanese player completed the formalities with a comfortable hold. She finished the match with two aces and a decisive smash and celebrated with a low-key fist-pump and a smile for the crowd.

“I tried to be as consistent as I can,” Osaka said in her post-match interview. “She’s a really great player and it’s unfortunate that she got injured.”

She continued, “Today I just had one goal – to try as hard as I can and not get angry. I didn’t do it well in the last two rounds but I think I did it well this time so I’m really happy with how I played.”

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