Serena Williams Topples World No.1 Halep To Reach Australian Open Quarters - UBITENNIS
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Serena Williams Topples World No.1 Halep To Reach Australian Open Quarters

The former world No.1 moves to three wins away from equalling Margaret Court’s all-time grand slam title record.

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16th seed Serena Williams has fired a warning shot to the rest of the draw at the Australian Open after downing world No.1 Simona Halep 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, in the fourth round.

 

Gunning after a record-equalling 24th grand slam title in Melbourne, the 37-year-old went off guns blazing before engaging in an almighty tug of war with her opponent. The pair lit up the Rod Laver Arena with a series of gut-busting baseline rallies that featured numerous angle shots. Williams prevailed with the help of nine aces and 44 winners to progress to the last eight in Melbourne for the 12th time in her career.

“It was a really intense match and there were some incredible points. But, you know, I love playing tennis and I love being out here (on court).” Williams said during her on-court interview.
“It’s really cool to be back out here and playing on this court.”

The highly anticipated clash between two of the top players on the women’s tour turned out to be a Williams annihilation at first. The power of the 23-time grand slam champion overwhelmed Halep as she roared through the first set in just 20 minutes. Making the world No.1 look extremely ordinary. After dropping her opening service game, Williams went on to win six games in a row. Hitting the ball deep towards the baseline and using angle shots to move her opponent around the court. The clinical first set was closed out with a 177 km/h ace out wide from Williams.

Following her comprehensive start, Williams soon encountered some stiff resistance from Halep in set number two. Drawing applause from the Melbourne crowd who were cheering for a competitive match. The Romanian began to capitalize on errors made from across the court as she matched Williams game-by-game.

The resurgence of the top seed eventually rewarded her as she tamed Williams’ aggressiveness on the court. Boasting a 5-4 lead in the second, a double-handed backhand down the line granted Halep break point and the chance to take proceedings into a decider. She was able to seize the moment with the help of a Williams error on the following point. Prompting a mini celebration by Halep.

With a place in the quarter-finals at stake, both women illustrated their highest level of tennis throughout the decider. Williams’ lightning shots was muzzled by some emphatic play from Halep. Six games into the deciding set, Williams fended off a trio of break points during a marathon service game to keep her chances alive. A game later, she secured the break for 4-3 with the help of a Halep forehand slamming into the net. That break was enough as the American rallied towards the finish line. Sealing the win on her first match point after a Halep forehand drifted long.

“I really needed to elevate my game. She’s (Halep) the number one player in the world and there’s a reason why. She’s just a great player.” The 37-year-old reflected about her performance.
“In order to stay out there I had to play a little like I knew I could and I did. I think that was the difference.”

Williams’ reward is a showdown with Karolina Pliskova on Wednesday. The Czech seventh seed crushed Garbine Muguruza in her fourth round match earlier in the day. It will be the fourth meeting between the two with Williams leading their head-to-head 2-1.

“If Serena is playing at her best, then it’s tough because she can serve, put a lot of pressure on her returns, but she can also miss. So we will see.” Pliskova commented about the upcoming match.

The win is Williams’ first over a world No.1 player since Victoria Azarenka at the 2013 Brisbane International.

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Heather Watson: My Losing Streak Was Really Depressing

Heather Watson described how it felt during her long losing streak and how she turned it around at an ITF event in Japan.

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Heather Watson (@CapitalBIRNews on Twitter)

Heather Watson did not win a single match during a four-month stretch between January and May. Unsurprisingly, she was feeling pretty down during that run.

 

“It was really depressing,” the Brit said. “I thought you know what, I was trying my best to stay positive and I thought this is going to be the week, like this is it, I’m going to win a match. Nope. And it just was going on for months. And it came to a point where I was thinking: Why am I trying every day? Why am I going to these tournaments?”

She continued, “Then, when I went to Japan, I lost first round there. I played really well in that match, but the girl had nothing to lose and played a really good match.”

“It was a really tough time but I’m proud of myself for sticking with it and getting out of it now because right now, I really can’t complain. I’m happy in life, on the court, off the court and happy with my game.”

Joy in Japan for Watson

The turning point for Watson came during her second ITF tournament in Fukuoka, Japan. She won easily in the first round, and suddenly her confidence returned.

“I think dropping down a level and playing the ITFs in Japan (was the key),” the Brit said. “As soon as I won one match, I won the tournament. I just needed that one match to give me confidence.”

She continued, “I’ve done that a few times now in my career, drop down to ITF level, which is still really tough, but for me it was literally just about getting one win.”

After she re-discovered the winning habit, Watson built up her confidence step by step. She notched another two victories in a third tournament in Japan. Then she got through a round of French Open qualifying.

The Brit followed up those results with a couple of good wins on the grass at Surbiton, before she was knocked out in the first round of Nottingham by Maria Sakkari.

Watson unlucky to lose to Strycova

By the time she got to Birmingham, Watson felt ready to beat Barbora Strycova in her first round match. Unfortunately for the Brit, she lost a tight three-set encounter that could easily have gone her way instead.

“I was really upset when I came off the court today because I felt I was the better player most of that match,” the World No.122 reflected. “But my coach just put it into perspective for me. He got me thinking back to some of the tournaments we were at earlier on: Indian Wells, Miami, where I could literally barely put balls in the court. When he said that, it made me laugh.”

Despite the loss, Watson is encouraged by her performance. “I was really happy with my level today,” she said. “There wasn’t much in it at all and I thought it was a high-quality match so I am feeling like my game is there and it should come together.”

Watson loves British crowds

There is no better place to play well than in front of a home crowd, and the Brit relishes this time of year. “I really don’t feel much pressure when I play at home,” she said. “When I think about it, I’m really excited, really happy to be playing on grass at these tournaments, not having to fly anywhere and having home crowd support.”

She continued, “I don’t know whether it’s because of the surface, whether it’s because I’m at home and I’m happy, or what it is, but I always feel like this time of year I do play some of my best tennis and I think that’s shown in my results in previous years at Wimbledon and Eastbourne. Unfortunately not here yet, but maybe next year.”

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Margarita Gasparyan: I Can Beat More Top Players

Margarita Gasparyan spoke about her growing belief that she can beat the best, her return to top form and her new-found love of grass.

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Margarita Gasparyan (foto: Fabrizio Maccani)

Margarita Gasparyan believes she can beat more of the best in the world after she recorded an impressive 6-3 3-6 6-4 win over Elina Svitolina at the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham.

 

The Russian, 24, played some excellent tennis at times during the match and she is confident that her style can cause problems for other high-ranked players in the future.

“I’m really happy that I won today because it was a really important victory,” Gasparyan said. “I played against a really great player and I think I’m playing really well.”

It was the Russian’s second win over a top ten player after she beat Kiki Bertens in a tight three-set match in Linz in October last year, and she is definitely starting to understand what is required to be successful in these high-profile encounters.

“With very victory like this you feel more confident in yourself,” Gasparyan said. “You just feel like you can beat more and more of this kind of player.”

Gasparyan back to her best after lengthy injury lay-off

In many ways, it is remarkable that the Russian is even still playing tennis after she endured a long spell on the sidelines with a knee injury.

It took three surgeries to repair the damage. However, while it has taken Gasparyan a long time to feel like she is back to her best, she is convinced she is there now.

“It was really, really tough (to come back from the injury),” the World No.62 said. “I was away a long time, almost two years, but I’m happy that I’m here now and I can compete.”

She continued, “Now (I’m established again) I have different goals and I just want to win as many matches as I can. I was 41 in the world. But now I want to be higher. So I just want to work hard and then I hope I will achieve my goals.”

Gasparyan feels comfortable on grass

Margarita Gasparyan (foto Fabrizio Maccani)

Due to her injury, Gasparyan had only played six grass court matches on the WTA tour before this year. However, that inexperience on the surface has barely hampered her at all and she believes it is because grass suits her game.

“I enjoy grass more than clay court,” the Russian said with a smile. “The rallies are faster and it suits my aggressive game.”

She continued, “I haven’t played a lot of tournaments on grass, but even now after some years away I’m feeling really good, so it’s not like I have to play a lot of tournaments to feel nice on the grass.”

Gasparyan is also encouraged by the way she handled the key moments against Svitolina. “I was confident (at those times) because I like the shots that I’m hitting and my ball is going deep.”

The Russian’s next task will be tricky one against either Ekaterina Alexandrova or French Open quarter-finalist Petra Martic. But her confidence is high and she will feel good about her chances whoever she faces.

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Elina Svitolina: I Don’t Have Expectations At The Moment

After she was knocked out in the first round, Elina Svitolina explained why she does not have high hopes for the grass court season.

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

The last few months have been frustrating for Elina Svitolina. She has been troubled by a knee injury since February and has not been able to play as much tennis as she would like.

 

This has led to a very mixed set of results for the Ukrainian. She played through the pain for a while and made it to three successive Premier semi-finals in Doha, Dubai and Indian Wells.

Sensibly, the World No.7 then decided not to push her luck and she took a six-week break to rest her knee after she was knocked out early in Miami.

When Svitolina returned to the tour, she lost in the first round in Madrid and Rome, so she was very short on match practice going into the French Open.

Despite that, the Ukrainian produced a good performance to beat Venus Williams in the first round, then she progressed to the third round by default after Kateryna Kozlova withdrew. Unfortunately for Svitolina, she did not get any more match practice in Paris as Muguruza defeated her in straight sets.

Svitolina not getting her hopes up due to lack of match practice

That loss to the Spaniard meant the World No.7 came to Birmingham having played just four matches since 23 March. It is far from ideal preparation, and it explains why she has set the bar low for the grass court season.

“I don’t have expectations,” Svitolina said. “For me it is just playing one tournament, one match at a time. I want to win as many matches as I can. If I don’t, maybe it’s not meant to be, but I will try my best.”

She continued, “I try to work really hard each day on and off the court to be ready for each event and each match, but I’m not really thinking too far ahead. Health is the priority for me now.”

The Ukrainian lost 6-3 3-6 6-4 to Margarita Gasparyan in the opening round, and she is keen to move on quickly as quickly as possible. “Of course it’s a little bit disappointing to lose the first match on a different surface,” she said. “It doesn’t give you much confidence. But also I’m trying not to take away the confidence I got from Roland Garros, which was not too bad.”

Ultimately, Svitolina is going to have to be patient while she waits for her form to return. All she can do in the meantime is work hard on the practice court and keep playing matches, and the WTA tour will soon see back at her best. She is too good a player to be stuck in the doldrums for long.

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