The first of the two Ladies’ semifinals was considered the more uncertain of the day, since it was showcasing the two highest seeds left in the draw, both of them former Major champions and with only two ranking places to divide them (Angelique Kerber n.10 and Jelena Ostapenko n.12).
Strangely, the two had never met before, but it wasn’t difficult to predict a match with Ostapenko firing blistering groundstrokes from the baseline and Kerber playing her proverbial defensive game returning the balls long enough to drive the Latvian player into an unforced error. However not many people expected such a one-sided end to the match, in which Ostapenko sank under the weight of 36 unforced errors in 18 games (a clean average of 2 errors per game) coupled with 25 more forced errors that made her task impossible.
During the coolest day of this year’s Championships, Ostapenko started the match with the clear intention to take control of the rally on her serve and close the point on her first or second shot. She knew her deep shots push her opponent away from the baseline, therefore in the first few games, she successfully produced a few winning drop-shot on both sides. However, her hopes were short-lived, as errors started mounting and Kerber took control of the match. From 3-3 in the first set, the German player won six games in a row to dig a very deep hole between herself and her opponent. With only 2 unforced error in the first set (against 19 by Ostapenko) and an astonishing 89% first serve percentage, Kerber kept very good control of her service games, cancelling the only break point she conceded in the set (at 2-3) with her first ace of the match.
Kerber broke for 2-0 in the second set thanks to a backhand drop shot and an unforced error by Ostapenko. She served for the match on 5-1 when she probably showed some tension for the first time in the whole afternoon and allowed Ostapenko to attempt a comeback with a 6-point streak that brought the Latvian back into contention. Two games later, serving again for the Wimbledon final at 5-3, she had to face another break point, but Ostapenko netted a backhand return on a second serve, she repeated the same shot on the following point and her final forehand unforced error ended the match after a mere 68 minutes.
“I was expecting that she would play like she played from the beginning: really hard, pushing me back – said Kerber after the match – I was trying to remain focused and playing every single point because she started really well. Then I was just trying to find my rhythm and take my chances when I had them. In the second set, it was a little bit at the end; tricky because you never know what’s going on. She can be down, then she is coming stronger back. So I was trying to stay in the moment“.
After a 2017 season that saw a big slump following a magic 2016, Kerber is now confident that her game is back to where it should be and she has surrounded herself of the best possible team: “I think I changed a few members of my team. I was doing a good pre-season. Also with Wim [Fissette], with fitness coaches, some physios, my whole team, I think they helped me a lot to come back, to really believe in myself again. We have been working together for six months now. I think we are on a good path. But I know that there is still some work to do. But for the moment we are happy how it’s working“.
Jelena Ostapenko met the press over two hours after the end of her semifinal and she had some surprising remarks about Centre Court: “First of all, I think the Centre Court is much slower than the other courts I played before. I think she had really many advantages because of that. My shots were not that effective on such a slow court. But in general, I think she was defending quite well and she was also serving quite well today“.
“When it was 5-3, I had a couple of breakpoints, I felt the match could turn the other way – continued Ostapenko – She started already to miss a couple of balls which she didn’t before because she was playing very consistent during the whole match. But then, again, I was rushing too much and hit some unforced errors, which I shouldn’t, of course. Then the match finished“.
After a disappointing French Open, where she was ousted in the first round as defending champion, Jelena feels that she has now regained her confidence back: “At the French Open, obviously, [my confidence] was not there because I had to defend such a big title, and I didn’t play my best at all. But I think every match here I was winning and I was getting my confidence back. Just every match I was playing better and better. Unfortunately today the result is not the one I wanted, but I was still fighting out there“.
On Saturday Kerber will play her fourth Major final: she has won two but her only defeat dates back to Wimbledon 2016 when she lost to Serena Williams.
Svetlana Kuznetsova completes her come-back by reaching the semifinal in Cincinnati
Two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova came back from one set down to beat Karolina Pliskova 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 to secure her spot in the semifinal of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati.
Kuznetsova, who was sidelined by a knee injury in the first half of the season, bounced back last week when she reached the third round at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. She beat Anastasija Sevastova, Dayana Yastremska and Sloane Stephens en route to the semifinal.
Kuznetsova hit 30 winners and broke three times to close out the match after 2 hours and 23 minutes.
Pliskova converted her only break point at love in the second game to win the opening set 6-3.
Pliskova saved three break points to hold serve at deuce in the fourth game before breaking serve at 15 to take a 4-3 lead. Kuznetsova broke back at 15 in the 10th game to draw level to 5-5. Kuznetsova earned four set points and converted her first chance to seal the tie-break 7-2.
Kuznetsova went up a break at love in the third game of the decisive set to take a 2-1 lead. Both Pliskova and Kuznetsova saved two break points in the fifth and sixth games. Kuznetsova sealed the win with a double break in the ninth game.
The Russian player set up a semifinal against 2019 Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty, who came back from one set down to beat Maria Sakkari 5-7 6-2 6-0.
Madison Keys Finally Finds Her Footing After Tough Few Weeks
Can the former top 10 player return to peak form in time for the US Open?
Entering into this week’s Western and Southern Open a single win would have been a much needed boost for Madison Keys ahead of the final grand slam of the season.
Keys, a former grand slam finalist herself, has been unable to shine on the women’s tour since reaching the quarter-finals of the French Open. In her past three tournaments, she has won one out of four matches played. To make it worse, two out of those three losses were to player’s ranked outside the top 100.
Fortunately for Keys her lull on the tour has ended this week in Cincinnati. An event where she made her debut back in 2012 at the age of 17. In the first round she saw off former world No.1 Garbine Muguruza in three sets before brushing aside Daria Kasatkina. However, her most impressive victory took place on Thursday. Taking on Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, Keys held her nerve to prevail 6-1, 3-6, 7-5, after just over two hours of play. Her first win over a top five player since Angelique Kerber at the same tournament 12 months ago.
“She’s been No. 1 for a reason, won Grand Slams for a reason. I knew that she wasn’t just going to, you know, ever give up or give in. I knew the entire time I had to fully win the match before, you know, I could actually take a deep breath.” Keys said following her latest win.
“I think I just kind of trusted myself a little bit, and I didn’t really hold back on any of my shots. I think I made a couple of bad misses, but at the same time I think I did a lot of really good things.”
The triumphs come as Keys and her rivals tune up their game ahead of the US Open. Where the 24-year-old will be defending a wealth of points after reaching the semi-finals there last year. Flushing Meadows is a place of fond memories for former finalist Keys and statistically her most successful grand slam. Winning 19 out of 26 matches played in New York so far in her career.
“It feels a little bit better, a little less stressed. Ask me again in a week and I will be just as stressed.” She commented about her preparation for the upcoming major.
“In order to find that level right before a slam, obviously feels good, but especially after having some tough weeks, being able to kind of put it all together makes me feel a little bit better going into the US Open.”
Growing in confidence once again, Keys takes on tour veteran Venus Williams next. Their head-to-head is currently tied at 2-2, however, they haven’t played each other since 2016. A win would move the American into her first tour semi-final since April when she won the Volvo Open in Charleston.
“But again, she’s obviously playing some really good tennis in order to beat Kiki and then Vekic and all that. I’m going to have to see what she’s been doing well.” Keys previewed about her clash with Williams.
The quarter-final clash between the two will take place on Friday evening not before 19:00 local time. Keys is one of four seeded players remaining in the draw.
Madison Keys battles past Simona Halep to reach the quarter final in Cincinnati
Madison Keys beat this year’s Wimbledon champion Simona Halep 6-1 3-6 7-5 to advance to the quarter final at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati for the second consecutive year.
Madison Keys stopped a five-match losing streak against Simona Halep after a thrilling three-set match scoring her first win over the Romanian player in five years.
After beating Halep in their first head-to-head match in 2014, Keys lost five consecutive matches against her Romanian rival, including four in 2016. They met for the first time since the 2016 WTA Finals, where Halep beat Keys 6-2 6-4 in a round-robin match.
Keys never faced a break point and dropped just eight points in four service games and reeled off nine of the eleven points on Halep’s first serve to cruise through to a 6-1 win in 20 minutes.
In the second set Halep dropped her serve twice, but she converted three of the ten break points. The Romanian player held her serve at love for the first time in the match to win the second set sending the match to the third set.
Keys went up a 3-0 lead in the decider and earned four break points for 4-0. Halep converted her fifth break points at deuce and held serve at love to draw level to 3-3. Keys did not convert a match point at 5-4, but she sealed the win by breaking serve with a forehand winner in the 12th game at deuce to the delight of the home crowd.
“I think I played really smart tonight. Obviously I played a really good first set, and I don’t think she played her best tennis in the first set. I think the third set we played a pretty high level of tennis. I think it was the first time that I played a little bit more within myself and didn’t try to do too much too soon. She has been number 1 for a reason, won Grand Slams for a reason. I knew that she wasn’t just going to give up or give in. I knew the entire time I had to fully win the match before I could take a deep breath. I am really happy after losing my lead in the third set, I was able to get back. It definitely reminds me that when I am in the right mindset and playing some good tennis, I can compete with anyone”, said Keys.
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