Near-Perfect Win Changes Nothing For Simona Halep At Madrid Open - UBITENNIS
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Near-Perfect Win Changes Nothing For Simona Halep At Madrid Open

Halep dropped only 12 points in her third round match, but she is not getting too carried away by the hype.

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Simona Halep (photo by Roberto Dell Olivo)

MADRID: On Tuesday Simona Halep said she has ‘no expectations’ this week. Less than 24 hours later, she achieved one of the most comprehensive wins of her career at the Madrid Open.

 

Opening up proceedings on the Manolo Santana stadium, the Romanian thrashed Viktoria Kuzmova 6-0, 6-0, in just 44 minutes. A 20-year-old Slovakian currently ranked 46th in the world. It was a near-perfect performance for Halep, who dropped only 12 points throughout the match. Claiming 84% of points behind her first serve and firing 14 winners past her error-stricken opponent. The dominating performance was only the fourth time in Halep’s career she has won a match without dropping a game.

“I felt peaceful on the court. And sometimes during the matches, you feel insecure about your game but today was not the case.” She said afterward. “Today, I felt every single shot and I knew that I could win every point against her. So I think the confidence was really very high.”

Halep’s one-sided victory comes after what has been far from ideal preparation for the Romanian. A hip injury forced her to miss her first clay-court event in Stuttgart. More recently, it has been a case of the cold that has hit her. The reason why she is putting no pressure on her title chances in Madrid.

Now playing without the expectation, it could ironically be the explanation behind her resurgence on the tour.

“It’s tough to expect something more from this match because I’m not healthy 100 percent and my energy is not 100 percent. But after this match, of course, my confidence goes higher.” Halep reflected.
“Expectations are not very high this week. I just want to go there and give everything I have. It is a tough week, but it is also a good week.” She added.

Despite the laid back approach, it doesn’t change the fact of how critical the clay-court swing is for the French Open champion this year. During that period, Halep is defending 2900 points, which is 50% of her total amount. A massive contrast to world No.1 Naomi Osaka, who has only 255 points to defend.

“I still feel the pressure because I had so many points to defend. But with them, I have learned that it’s not about defending points, it’s about building the points week-by-week.” Halep stated.
“Without expectations, you are more relaxed, you don’t feel stressed that you have to win that match, but still, when I step on the court, I want to win every match I play, so it’s in the middle.”

There was no celebration for Halep in the doubles at the Caja Magica. Partnered with compatriot Irina Camelia Begu, the duo crashed out in the second round. Falling 6-3, 6-3, to top seeds Barbora Krejčíková and Kateřina Siniaková. The former world No.1 dabbles in doubles tournaments throughout the season, also playing in Miami. However, her experience at grand slam level was at the 2015 Wimbledon Championships. An absence she has no intention of changing.

“I just want to focus on singles and I play doubles for some matches.” She explained.
“I love playing with Irina, we are friends, and it is nicer to play. But I play only a few times a year. My mind is not on being a professional doubles player, so I will stay with singles for the moment.”

In the quarter-finals at Madrid, Halep will take on Australia’s Ash Barty. She leads their head-to-head 2-1 but lost their most recent meeting at the Sydney International earlier this year.

Halep has now won 22 matches at the Madrid Open, which is the third highest in history. Only Maria Sharapova (23) and Petra Kvitova (28) have won more. Kvitova will play her third round match later on Wednesday.

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Pliskova And Konta Advance To Rome Final

Johanna Konta edged world n.4 Kiki Bertens while Karolina Pliskova scored a straight-set victory against Maria Sakkari

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Johanna Konta in Rome during the 2019 Internazionali BNL d'Italia (photo Roberto Dell'Olivo)

After a washout on Wednesday and a double duty day on Thursday, the Internazionali BNL d’Italia were bracing for another wet afternoon on Saturday. Eventually, the very cold spell of Italian spring that has so far marred the 2019 Italian Open decided to spare the Foro Italico on the first day of the final weekend and allowed the two women’s singles semifinals to take place with only one very short interruption.

 

In the first match, 28-year-old Brit Johanna Konta came back from one set down and only two points away from defeat to overcome Mutua Madrid Open champion and world n.4 Kiki Bertens 5-7, 7-5, 6-2. The Dutch woman seemed to be in control of the match after she swooped the first set winning the last three games in a row (from 4-5 to 7-5) imposing her offensive and defensive game over a nervous and tentative Konta, who also failed to consolidate an initial break in the second set by losing her serve for the third time in a row. However, as the match progressed Konta started shaking off her initial jitters and held her subsequent service game with authority. At 4-5 30-30, a shanked smash pinched the line and the following forehand volley winner sealed the 5-5, signing a progressive decline in Berten’s sharpness and aggressiveness. “I think everything was hard today to ignore – said Bertens in the post-match press conference – the court was really slippery, so it’s tough to move on. Especially I like it when it’s not so slippery so I can move a little bit better. With the wind, it was really tough. She played really smart with the dropshots. She did a good job in there. I was all the time getting myself together and trying to push for more energy. But, yeah, it was not there”.

At her first final on clay and at her first final in a Premier Five/Premier Mandatory tournament after her triumph in Miami in 2017, Konta describer her effort on court as a “continuous adjustment, a continuous openness to figure it out within the match. I stayed very open in trying to find a solution in each point […] after I lost the first set, I didn’t do much wrong. It was a very good set of tennis. Equally the second set, as well. There wasn’t anybody putting a bad foot out of line. In the third, I definitely felt that I was able to maintain my level a bit better than her. I think that gave me the upper hand in stringing some more points together”.

Konta will face in the final n.4 seed Karolina Pliskova, who during the late afternoon match defeated Greek qualifier Maria Sakkari 6-4, 6-4. Sakkari started the match extremely well taking an early 4-2 lead, but could not continue to produce the same level of tennis in the second part of the set and was surpassed by her better ranked opponent. “Your intensity just dropped by one percent – said Sakkari’s coach Tom Hill during an on-court coaching session at the end of the first set – that’s the only difference between the first games and the last in this first set”.

During the second set, Pliskova was always ahead in the score, and despite she was the player more under pressure on her serve during the first half of the set, she eventually managed to break her opponent to love on 5-4 closing the match after one hour, 27 minutes. “I’m super happy for this result because I don’t feel I have been playing my best tennis – said Pliskova after the match – coming into this week I felt I would probably win one match, possibly two, I’m very confident for Paris now”.

The head-to-head between Pliskova and Konta see the Czech having won four of the previous five matches at WTA level, plus further two at ITF level. The only win for Konta came in Beijing in 2016, when the Brit reached her first Premier Mandatory final.

 

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Johanna Konta Reaches Biggest Semi-Final Since 2017

Johanna Konta advanced to her first semi-final in Rome by beating Vondrousova in three sets, while Pliskova beat Azarenka.

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Johanna Konta (@InteBNLdItalia on Twitter)

Johanna Konta will contest the biggest match of her career since Wimbledon 2017 when she takes on Kiki Bertens in the semi-final of the Italian Open.

 

The Brit, who is celebrating her 28th birthday today, looked in excellent form during her 6-3 3-6 6-1 victory over rising star Marketa Vondrousova and she fully deserves her place in the last four.

Konta’s win seems even more impressive when you consider the two players the Czech, 19, beat to reach the quarter-final stage: Simona Halep and Daria Kasatkina.

With those scalps under her belt, Vondrousova would surely have fancied her chances against the Brit. However, that confidence quickly eroded after the World No.42 controlled the opening set.

Konta made a great start. She hit a series of deep backhands which pushed the Czech back as she almost got an immediate break.

Although Vondrousova held on, the Brit then earned three more chances in game three. She took the second to move into a 2-1 lead.

Konta dominated her service games to maintain her advantage for the rest of the set, and then broke the Czech again in game nine to clinch it.

To Vondrousova’s credit, she fought back well in the second set and eventually won it 6-3. However, the Brit knew what to do in the decider. She stepped into the court and attacked anything short. This enabled her to win six games in a row and seal her spot in the semi-final.

Azarenka’s impressive run comes to an end

Karolina Pliskova (@InteBNLdItalia on Twitter)

It has been a brilliant week in Rome for Victoria Azarenka, but her participation in the singles event is now over after a 6-7(5) 6-2 6-2 loss to Karolina Pliskova.

The Belarussian, 29, impressed during her three-set win over another top ten player – Elina Svitolina – in the second round, but she could not repeat the feat against the World No.7.

For Pliskova, the match against Azarenka represented a significant hurdle to negotiate. But she responded superbly to losing the first set by raising her game considerably to win the next two.

“Azarenka was playing good tennis today. She wasn’t missing much,” the Czech said in her press conference.

She continued, “It was a little bit windy, so I didn’t feel at my best in the first set. I don’t think my level was that bad, but I was too passive. To begin with, I wanted to kill myself after that set. Then I calmed down a bit and went for my shots a little bit more, which paid off.”

Pliskova’s reward will be a semi-final against either Maria Sakkari or Kristina Mladenovic. If it is the Greek, it will bring back memories of their encounter last year when the Czech famously lost her temper and damaged the umpire’s chair.

“I haven’t played Sakkari since Rome last year, so I think everybody is going to be waiting for this match – even me,” the World No.7 said. “The rematch has almost happened in a couple of tournaments recently, but she always lost before. I think she was scared to face me!”

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Kiki Bertens receives a walkover into the semifinal, as Naomi Osaka withdraws from the quarter final due to a right hand injury

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Last week’s Madrid Mutua Open champion Kiki Bertens overcame 2015 Rome finalist Carla Suarez Navarro 6-4 1-6 6-3 after 1 hour and 49 minutes to extend her winning streak to eight consecutive matches.

 

A rain wash-out on Wednesday forced Bertens to postpone her Rome campaign until Thursday and play two matches to advance to the quarter final.

Bertens overcame Amanda Anisimova 6-2 4-6 7-5 after being just two points from defeat in her first Thursday match before surviving another three-set battle against Carla Suarez Navarro.

Bertens went up a double break to take a 3-0 lead and held on her service games to seal the opening set on her fourth set point.

Suarez Navarro broke serve twice to clinch the second set 6-1 forcing the match to the third set.

Bertens broke twice in a row to race out to a 4-0 lead in the  decisive set. Suarez Navarro pulled one of the two breaks back. Bertens held on her next service games to seal the win to secure her spot in the quarter final.

“It was only fight today that got me through. It wasn’t the best tennis, but sometimes that happens where you just have to find a way. Luckily I found it. I got to hit yesterday morning because I was first on, so at 9 AM, I warmed up until 9.30, when I thought that maybe we will be able to go on court, but it did not happen. I was on site from 8 AM to 6 PM, so it was a long day, but for everyone. This morning I saw the schedule for 10 AM, so the alarm went off at 6.30. Not my best morning. After the first match, I felt more mentally fatigued, but a long second match, you feel it physically”, said Bertens.

The Dutch player has received a walkover into the semifinal after her quarter final rival Naomi Osaka was forced to withdraw from the tournament due to a right hand injury. Osaka also had to pull out of the Stuttgart Open because of an abdominal problem, but she reached the biggest clay quarter final of her career in Madrid, where she served for the match, but she lost to Belinda Bencic 3-6 6-2 7-5.

 

 

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