Defending champion Kiki Bertens suffered an early exit at the Volvo Car Open in Charleston after a poor performance in a 7-6 (8) 6-3 third-round defeat to Maria Sakkari.
The Dutchwoman, 27, beat Madison Keys and Julia Goerges en route to the title in 2018, but she was unable to repeat those heroics this time around.
Bertens’ encounter with Sakkari was riddled with errors from both sides of the court. Neither player seemed able to find much rhythm and, consequently, there were five breaks of serve in the first six games.
At this stage, the World No.6 led 4-2. However, she played an appalling game on serve in the tenth game to allow her Greek opponent to draw level.
Despite this, Bertens should still have won the set. She wasted four set points in the tie-break and only had herself to blame when she eventually lost it 10-8.
In the second set, Sakkari stepped up. She pounced on the Dutchwoman’s uncertainties and broke her in successive games to move into a 3-1 lead.
Bertens tried to get back into it. She earned three chances to break in the sixth game and one in the eighth but did not manage to convert any of them.
These failures seemed to drain any remaining belief out of the World No.6. She surrendered her serve to love in the ninth game and her title defence was over.
Sakkari’s reward for victory could be a quarter-final meeting with former World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki. The Dane takes on Mihaela Buzarnescu later in the day.
Bencic’s stellar year continues
Belinda Bencic ensured her superb 2019 continued when she booked her place in the last eight with a 6-2 7-5 win over World No.83 Taylor Townsend.
The Swiss, 22, looked in superb touch as she unleashed 23 winners and only made 11 unforced errors during an impressive display of her all-court ability.
“The key is always to put pressure (on Townsend). The spin she puts on the ball makes her uncomfortable to play so, if you give her time, she will send you way out of the court.”
Bencic continued, “It means so much to be playing tennis again. My time out with injuries changed my perspective and taught me a lot. I realised it’s not bad when you lose a match; it’s bad when you cannot play at all. I’m really glad for all the experiences I’ve had in my career.”
The World No.21’s next experience will be a quarter-final clash with Petra Martic. The Croatian battled to a 2-6 6-3 6-2 win over American Jessica Pegula.
Leylah Fernandez Overcomes Pavlyuchenkova To Reach Indian Wells Fourth Round
It was a tough day at the office for the US Open runner-up.
Leylah Fernandez pulled off one of her famous comebacks in the Californian desert beating the number nine seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 41 minutes.
The Canadian hit 24 winners in the win while the Russian hit 46 unforced errors in a match that went back and forth before Fernandez was able to pull through in the end.
“What I am most proud of is the way that I fought and honestly today wasn’t my best performance,” Fernandez said afterwards. “But I fought for every point and I was trying to figure things out. I was proud I was able to find a way to get back in the match and get the win”.
After holding serve in her opening service game the world number 28 started putting the pressure right away on the Russian by getting two early break points but failed to convert.
At 3-3, it was Fernandez facing the pressure on her serve and the world number 13 had four looks at a breakpoint. On the fourth the Canadian cracked and double-faulted for the first break of serve of the match.
The Russian lead didn’t last long as the Canadian responded right away in the following game and the next four games went with breaks of serve as both players were struggling to hold serve.
Pavlyuchenkova eventually served for the set at 6-5 and was able to serve it out to take a 7-5 lead.
Pavlyuchenkova carried the momentum into the second set and broke Fernandez’s serve in the first game of the set but at 2-1 got broken once again and the set went back on serve.
It stayed on serve until 4-3 when Fernandez managed to get the crucial break of serve and that was enough for her to serve out the second set.
The first four games of the third set went on serve and at 2-2 again it was the Montreal native earning a breakpoint and breaking once again and despite facing pressure from the Russian was able to serve out the match.
After the match in her on-court interview, Fernandez was asked about all the support she has been getting recently and what it means to her to play on such a big stage.
“I got goosebumps,’ she said. “I was super excited to play here in Indian Wells for the first time and to play in a stadium where so many legends played who fought and won so it’s an honor to be here. I can’t wait to play my next match”.
Fernandez will next face the American Shelby Rogers in the round of 16 on Tuesday after she beat the Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 6-0, 6-2.
Bianca Andreescu Begins Indian Wells Title Defense With Rollercoaster win
The Canadian began her title defense from 2019 with a three-set win over her American opponent.
Reigning Indian Wells champion Bianca Andreescu is into the third round after a epic two-hour and 48 battle with Alison Riske which she eventually won 7-6, 5-7, 6-2.
” I’m very happy to be back and I felt all the emotions coming back here to Indian Wells, especially stepping on this court and it honestly feels awesome”. Said Andreescu.
The Toronto native fired 30 winners in a match that went back and forth in the last match on Stadium court.
The first set stayed on serve until 2-2 when it was the Canadian with the first two chances of the match to break and she was able to get the first break of serve in the match but failed to consolidate and Riske broke back the following game.
Andreescu had another chance at 3-3 but was snuffed by the world number 51 and the first set was decided by a tiebreaker. In that breaker, the number 16 seed jumped out to a 4-2 lead which was enough to take the first set.
After holding in her opening service game the Canadian had three chances for an early break in the second set but the American was able to save all three and held serve.
At 2-1, the world number 21 had two more chances and with a return winner on double break point she took a 3-1 lead and this time was able to consolidate the break and hold serve.
At 4-2, the world number 51 attempted a comeback and after earning two breakpoints of her own broke back to put the set back on serve but at 5-4 the Canadian had two match points but the American saved both.
At 5-5, Riske had two more breakpoints and managed to get the crucial break of serve and serve out the second set to send it to a deciding third set.
The number 16 seed was keen on getting the early lead in the third set and she did just that to take a 2-0 lead and at 4-1 managed to turn her break into a double break and served out the match.
After the match in her on-court interview, Andreescu was asked what had happened in the second set and how she was able to respond in the third set.
” She played very well, I honestly had no idea what happened and she picked up her level while I kinda stayed the same,” she said. “Then I had to refocus for the third set and I had to change my tactics a little bit and it helped”.
Andreescu is now lifetime 8-0 in Indian Wells dating back to 2019 when she won and is still the current defending champion. She will take that record into her next match where she will face Anett Kontaveit.
Aryna Sabalenka Out Of Indian Wells After Positive COVID Test
Sabalenka is the latest player to be ruled out of a tournament after testing positive for the virus.
World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka says she is ‘looking OK’ after confirming she has tested positive for COVID-19.
The Belarussian was set to be the top seed at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells which will get underway next week after Ash Barty withdrew from the draw. It is not known as to if Sabalenka is currently experiencing any symptoms at present or when exactly she tested positive for the virus. She hasn’t played on the Tour since reaching the semi-finals of the US Open last month.
“Unfortunately I’ve tested positive at Indian Wells and won’t be able to compete,” Sabalenka wrote in an Instagram story.
“I’ve started my isolation and I’ll be staying here until I’m cleared by the doctors and health officials.
“So far I’m looking OK but really sad to not be able to play this year.”
It is unclear if the 23-year-old has received a COVID vaccination after she previously expressed caution over receiving one. During the Miami Open in March Sabalenka told reporters she was concerned about how quickly the vaccine has been produced and the effects it might have on her body.
“So far I don’t really trust it. It’s tough to say, but I don’t really want mine yet, actually, and I don’t want my family have it,” she said. “I will think about this. I mean, if I will have to do it, then of course I have to do it, because our life is a travel life and I think we are the ones who actually should make it. But I will see.”
In recent months tennis’ governing bodies have been urging their players to get vaccinated but some such as Sabalenka are still hesitant. On the other hand, two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka has previously called for the vaccine to be made mandatory on the Tour.
So far this season Sabalenka has achieved a win-loss record of 42-14 and has reached the semi-finals at her two most recent Grand Slam tournaments (Wimbledon and the US Open). She has won two titles in Abu Dhabi at the start of the season and then Madrid in May. Sabalenka also reached the final of another tournament in Stuttgart.
Replacing Sabalenka as the top seed in Indian Wells will be Karolina Pliskova who is a two-time semi-finalist in the tournament.
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