Garbine Muguruza fends off three match points to edge Anastasia Sevastova in the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai - UBITENNIS
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Garbine Muguruza fends off three match points to edge Anastasia Sevastova in the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai

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Number 7 seed Garbine Muguruza fended off three match points to edge number 2 seed Anastasija Sevastova 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 7-6 (7-1) in the final match of the Camelia Group reaching the semifinals at the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai.

Both Muguruza and Sevastova had beaten Zhang Shuai in their opening matches of the Camelia Group and their head-to-head clash was a decisive knock-out match.

Sevastova converted her second break point in the fourth game to build up a 4-1 lead. Muguruza broke back in the seventh game on her third opportunity and held her serve to win her third consecutive game to draw level to 4-4 after saving two break points. Sevastova held her serve at 15 to stop a losing streak of three consecutive games for 5-4. At 5-6 Muguruza held her serve after a 20-point 12th game forcing the set to the tie-break. Sevastova took the 7-4 edge in the tie-break.

Muguruza bounced back by breaking twice in the second set to race out to a 5-0 lead. Sevastova pulled one break back at 15 in the seventh game for 2-5, but Muguruza broke for the third time to seal the second set 6-2.

Sevastova earned an early break at the start of the decisive set to take a 2-0 lead. Muguruza reeled off three consecutive games for 3-2 with a break- back in the fourth game. Sevastova converted her third break back in the ninth game to take  5-4 edge, earning her chance to serve for the match. The Latvian player brought up three match points. Muguruza saved the third match point with a winner down the line before breaking serve to draw level to 5-5. Sevastova did not convert a break point in the 11th game, but she held serve to force the decisive set to the tie-break. Muguruza dominated the tie-break and sealed the win with a down-the line winner.

Muguruza has extended her win-loss record to 3-1 in her head-to-head matches after beating the Latvian player in Beijing 2016 and at the 2017 Australian Open.

 “The matches are the ones that really count. It’s long, it’s difficult. You have match points against you. You don’t lose courage. You don’t lose your enthusiasm. And it worked well. There were just a few points difference. I was coming in with great shots, she was coming with better shots. Sometimes I was winning the points, sometimes she was just playing incredible”, said Muguruza.

Wang Qiang came back from one set down to beat Madison Keys 1-6 6-3 6-1, but this win was not enough for the Chinese player to win the Azalea Group and get through to the semifinal. Keys finished first in the Azalea Group after pushing the match to the third set. She needed to win a set to reach her fourth semifinal of the year. The US player will take on Muguruza in the semifinal.

Keys went up a double break to build up a 5-0 lead. Wang saved a break point to avoid a bagel in the first set before holding serve for 1-5 after three deuces. Keys fired her first ace to bring up three set points. She sealed the set on her first chance with a forehand crosscourt passing winner.

Keys went up a set and a break, when Wang netted her backhand in the third game of the second set. The Chinese broke back in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2, when Keys misfired on her forehand.

Keys broke serve at love in the fifth game, but Wang came back from 0-40 down on return to break straight back for 3-3. Wang held serve with her backhand to take a 4-3 lead stopping a streak of four consecutive breaks. Wang broke for the third time in a row to open up a 5-3 lead earning a chance to serve for the set. Keys saved a break point with a forehand winner down the line, but Wang converted her second chance, when Keys sent her forehand return long.

Wang started the third set with a break at love, before saving two break points to open up a 2-0 lead. The home player went up a double break to race out to a 4-0 lead. Keys held her serve at 30 to get her first game in the fifth game. Wang saved two points to hold serve for 5-1 before closing out the match with two winning service returns in a row to score her ninth top 20 win in 2018.

Caroline Garcia beat Aryna Sabalenka 6-4 6-4. Despite the straight-set win Garcia did not reach the semifinal, because she needed to drop less than seven games to advance from the round-robin stage in the Orchid Group.

Garcia earned the only break in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead. The French player saved three break points to close out the first set with a hold of serve in the 10th game. Garcia went up a set and a break in the opening game of the second set. Sabalenka broke back at deuce in the fourth game to draw level to 2-2. Garcia earned another break in the fifth game for 3-2. Sabalenka held serve to win the eighth game, when she was trailing 4-6 3-5, sending Keys to the semifinal.

 “I wanted to win today, but I was not really thinking about qualifying for the semifinal. I am happy with the win today. It was a good match. I played Aryna twice already this year and I lost both times in three-set battle”, said Garcia.

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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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