Czech No.1 Karolina Pliskova is a win away from the biggest title of her career at the Miami Open after scoring a straight sets win over Simona Halep. An outcome that has also breathed a sigh of relief for world No.1 Naomi Osaka.
Pliskova require just under 80 minutes to defeat Halep 7-5, 6-1, during a match that was interrupted by rain delays. The encounter wasn’t entirely straightforward for the world No.7, who dropped serve twice during the opening set. Nevertheless, as the match progressed Pliskova proved to be the more consistent of the two. Winning five games in a row during set number two on route to the victory. In total, Pliskova produced 23 winners to 16 unforced errors.
“I think I played great the second set. Of course I think she (Halep) could maybe do a little bit better.” She said. “Maybe she was of course frustrated about the first set where it didn’t really go her way. I played some good shots, and it turned after the break. But, yeah, that’s how it is, and I’m happy with my level.”
The 27-year-old is guided on the tour by two former pros who have both enjoyed success during their careers. Conchita Martinez is the 1994 Wimbledon Champion and Renee Stubbs is a three-time grand slam champion in the doubles. Under their influence, Pliskova has enjoyed a strong start to 2019. Miami is the fourth consecutive tournament where she has reached the quarter-finals or better.
“Of course the confidence, it helps so much,” said Pliskova. “You know, when you win a couple matches, then you just see the ball, you know, without even practicing or without even thinking about it. So I think it all is because of the matches.”
Pliskova’s latest triumph means that two-time grand slam champion Osaka will retain her No.1 position next week. A title that could have been snatched by Halep if she progressed to the final in Miami. As for Pliskova, she could rise to as high as No.2 if she wins the title on Saturday.
Standing in the way of her first ever Premier Mandatory title will be Ash Barty. The 22-year-old Australian has secured her debut in the world’s top 10 next week following her run in Miami. On Thursday she dropped only six games during her 6-3, 6-3, win over Anett Kontaveit. Becoming the first player from her country – man or woman – to reach the final of the tournament.
“We have had a few really good matches in the past.” Barty said of facing Pliskova. “I think it’s split pretty evenly, actually. I played her most recently in the US Open in another big match. There wasn’t much in that either. I think either way I get to go out there and try and play my brand of tennis, which is probably the most important thing for either matchup.”
The women’s final will take place on Saturday. At stake will be 1000 ranking points for the winner, as well as $1,354,010 in prize money.
“It was crazy” – Kaia Kanepi Ousts Australian Open Second Seed Aryna Sabalenka In An Epic
The Estonian is through to the last eight at Melbourne Park for the first time in her career.
World number 115 Kaia Kanepi produced one of the shocks of the tournament to send Aryna Sabalenka crashing out.
The 36-year-old Estonian saw three match points come and go but prevailed in the super tie-break to seal it; 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (10-7).
Through to the quarter finals for the first time in her career, she will face Poland’s Iga Świątek. The 2020 French Open champion saw off Sorana Cîrstea in three sets.
The first set saw power tennis from both players out on Margaret Court Arena.
Kanepi held serve right up till 5-5, when Sabalenka turned the screw.
The Belarussian was pushed to deuce on her own service game but did enough to edge ahead.
She then applied enough pressure, opening up three break-points and only needing one, took the first set 7-5.
But the veteran Estonian roared back in the second set, nailing a huge break of serve to go 1-0 ahead.
Kanepi secured the double break, soon steaming ahead at 4-0 and eventually pocketed the set 6-2.
The 23-year-old from Minsk was beginning to look jaded in the deciding set, as Kanepi took an immediate break of serve.
She soon went 4-2 ahead but Sabalenka fought back for 4-4, as the set went back on serve.
Kanepi got the decisive break to move 5-4 ahead and serve for the match.
Nerves got to the Estonian, however, as Sabalenka saved four match points.
Three times at deuce, and on her third break point, Sabalenka levelled the set for 5-5.
Both players held serve, under enormous pressure, to send the match to a super tie-break.
Kanepi surged into a 5-2 lead but Sabalenka played clutch to level at 5-5.
It was soon 7-7, but the pressure got to Sabalenka, and Kanepi won three straight points to win the biggest match of her career.
Kanepi said she was shocked to have won. “Actually, I thought I was going to lose it after the match points I had on my serve.”
“It was really difficult to come back. I don’t know how I managed to do it.
“I was really tight. My hand was shaking when I started serving. I didn’t make any first serves in, and that added to the pressure. It was crazy.”
Iga Swiatek Edges Past Resilient Cirstea For Maiden Australian Open Quarter-Final
Iga Swiatek is into her first Australian Open Quarter-Final after a tough win over Sorana Cirstea.
Iga Swiatek edged past Sorana Cirstea 5-7 6-3 6-3 in 2 and a half hours to reach her first Australian Open Quarter-Final.
The former Roland Garros champion survived a mammoth match against a powerful Cirstea to reach the last eight in Melbourne for the first time.
Swiatek was emotional after the match as she revealed the stress was bigger than her previous matches.
The Pole awaits Aryna Sabalenka or Kaia Kanepi in the last eight.
It was the Romanian who had the more aggressive start as she powered returns past Swiatek and tested the Pole’s defensive skills in the early exchanges.
After a valiant effort from Swiatek, Cirstea eventually broke and gained an early 2-0 lead.
The Pole had to save break point with some big serving and powerful groundstrokes to avoid the double break deficit.
However once Swiatek found her rhythm, she started to anticipate the Romanian’s power plays better and create space on the court for more aggressive tennis of her own.
Cirstea played big tennis on the big points as she save three break points in the fourth game for a crucial 3-1 lead.
Swiatek gained more consistent power and variety as the set went on with the former Roland Garros champion becoming more comfortable on serve.
Eventually the Pole’s mixture of defensive solidity and consistent, regular power earned its rewards as she broke back for 4-4 in the opening set.
However that didn’t intimidate the Romanian, who had already beaten Petra Kvitova and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova at this tournament, as she continued to pound the winners on return.
Cirstea’s improved aggression especially on the big points continued to pay off as she saved set point in the tenth game to hold before breaking to love to seal a 6-5 lead.
Too many errors from Swiatek who couldn’t match the physical game style of Cirstea as the Romanian closed out the opening set 7-5.
In the second Swiatek and Cirstea traded breaks as the Pole was beginning to play smart tennis and trying to expose the Romanian’s short balls whenever they came.
The Pole’s unique offense took advantage of Cirstea’s relatively conservative second serves and on her third break point broke for a 4-2 lead in a long game.
Despite the consistent power from the Romanian there was no clinical edge to her game in the second set as Swiatek won all the big points to level the match at one set all.
This physical and mental rollercoaster of a match would have plenty more twists and turns yet as both players produced red-hot tennis in the deciding set.
Arguably the game that decided the match was the fourth game where Cirstea used a lot of energy to power past Swiatek’s stubborn defence and push for the break.
Swiatek’s resilience was crucial as she saved four break points to hold for 2-2. The Pole would then break for a 3-2 lead as Cirstea’s serve was not as effective as the opening two sets.
Although Cirstea broke back, Swiatek’s returning was at a higher level and her all-court power saw her reel off two consecutive breaks to love to seal a crucial win.
Tears from Swiatek at the end as relief and emotion was a result of a mentally and physically demanding match that takes her to a first Australian Open quarter-final. After the match the Pole admitted it was a stressful match, “I feel like she was really putting pressure on, returning in front of the baseline she was playing as fast as my serve was. I just had to be on my toes,” the Pole said in her on-court interview.
“I feel that my stress level was higher than the previous. For me a week without crying is not a week!”
Swiatek will now play second seed Aryna Sabalenka or Kaia Kanepi in the last eight on Wednesday.
Victoria Azarenka Cruises Past Svitolina To Reach Australian Open Fourth Round
The former champion produced a ruthless display to book her place in the last 16.
Victoria Azarenka is through to the fourth round of the Australian Open after beating 15th seed Elina Svitolina 6-0, 6-2 in 67 minutes.
Facing a top 20 player at Melbourne Park for the first time since 2016, the world No.25 hit 17 winners and four aces in the win. Azarenka, who is one of only eight active players to have won more than 100 Grand Slam main draw matches, improving her record against Ukrainian players to 16-1.
“I thought I was really well-executing my game plan. I wanted to put as much pressure as I could on her and kind of not let her come into the match,” said Azarenka. “She’s an amazing fighter. I know if I give her a little room, she’s going to get back out there. That was my purpose today, and I think I executed that well.”
It was the number 24 seed with the better start to the match and ashe played aggressively from the word go. Earning three chances to break in the very first game and broke to take an early 1-0 lead. After consolidating the break, Azarenka was hungry for more and she got another chance to go up a double break and broke once again with a stunning forehand winner.
at 4-0, the Belorussian continued to dominate and broke Svitolina’s serve once more this time with a backhand winner down the line before serving out the first set to take it 6-0 in 25 minutes flat.
The first game of the second set was a carbon copy of the opening of the first set with Azarenka breaking once again to take a 1-0 lead and it stayed on serve until 4-2 when the number 24 seed went up a double break to lead 5-2.
The last game was a long affair with the Ukrainian starting to find her game and it went back and forth with the Belorussian looking to seal the win while Svitolina pushed back to stay alive.
It took six match points and saving three break points before Azarenka was able to serve it out and take the win. She will now face Barbora Krejickova who defeated Jelena Ostapenko 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
“The rise of Barbora has been pretty incredible over the last year and a half, basically since COVID. She seems to kind of elevate her game more and more. She has all the good tools to play,” the two-time champion said of her next oponent.
“She can play aggressive, she can mix it up. A very dangerous player. We played once in Ostrava. It was pretty tight match and really good quality.” She added.
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