Angelique Kerber put on a stunning exhibition of grass court tennis to beat Simona Halep 6-4 6-3 at the Nature Valley International.
The German, 31, has always loved grass. She has made it to the semi-final stage or further in seven tournaments on the surface. And she her enjoyed three of the best weeks of her career this time last year when she made it to the semi-finals in Eastbourne and then won her first Wimbledon title.
Kerber’s success on the lawns looks set to continue for a long time. She dealt with everything Halep threw at her today and came up with a medley of outstanding winners – most of them on her lethal forehand side.
“It’s never easy to play Simona, but I played really well from the first point today, especially in important moments,” the German said.
“I was hitting the ball good, really deep, and moving well. It was quite a good match from my side.”
She continued, “I’m feeling good so far here. Every tournament is different. I’m focusing right now on my semi tomorrow and not thinking too much ahead.”
Kerber elaborated, “I know that when I am in the car to Wimbledon, a lot of emotions and memories will come. Wimbledon for me is something special, something magic. When I finish here, my whole focus and my heart will be there.”
The environment in Eastbourne suits Kerber’s personality. “It’s better to be here (this week). It’s a little bit quieter than Wimbledon right now, so I prefer to stay here a little bit longer.”
Kerber takes control
Kerber made a great start to the quarter-final. She attacked Halep’s serve and gained two breaks in the first five games to move 4-1 ahead.
As is typical of her character, the Romanian responded by immediately wrestling one of the breaks back. She then served better for the rest of the set to force the German to serve for it at 5-4, which she did.
Halep made a strong start to the second set. She went 40-15 up in the opening game after controlling the first four points.
Then Kerber turned the game on its head with four brilliant points. On the first, she flashed a forehand return past the Romanian. Then she dragged Halep around the court to force into a couple or errors and earn break point. Finally, she unleashed another forehand winner to seize the break.
The World No.7 looked shell-shocked for the next two games as the German won them both in the blink of an eye. Unsurprisingly, Halep called for her coach.
Halep makes Kerber work for the win
Whatever Daniel Dobre, it worked, as the 2018 French Open champion played a series of superb points to get herself back into the match.
First, Halep hit a return that landed on the baseline. Next, she manoeuvred Kerber around the court and put away a volley. Then the Romanian unfurled a delightful drop shot to earn a break point.
The German saved that one, and two more, before Halep procured another chance with a remarkable backhand winner that was achieved with hardly any backswing whatsoever. She then forced Kerber into an error to secure one of the breaks she needed.
The Romanian continued to play well for the rest of the match and there were some amazing rallies for the crowd to enjoy. However, the German came up with exactly the right shot time and again.
In game six, Kerber hit a lob, a forehand winner and a backhand winner. Then, in game seven, she hit two forehand winners. In game eight, she hit an extraordinary forehand winner around the net post. And in game nine, she bested Halep in an incredible rally to set herself up for yet another forehand winner.
Shortly after that rally was over, the match was too, as Halep succumbed to the German’s relentless pressure and surrendered her serve. When the final ball landed out, the crowd showed their appreciation for both players’ performances with loud cheering and rapturous. The match was a great advert for women’s tennis.
Halep reflects on her time in Eastbourne
“(Kerber) played really well today,” Halep said. “I didn’t play badly, but I missed a little bit too much on some points, important points, and I didn’t take my chances.”
“I was not patient enough because with her, you have to be a little bit more patient. She’s very strong on the baseline, and you have also to change something.”
She continued, “Also, in the second set, first game, I had 40-15 on my serve and I couldn’t take the game. But in my opinion, it was a good match.”
The Romanian is happy with her performances in Eastbourne, and she is pleased that her net play is getting sharper, but she knows there is still plenty of room for improvement.
“I would say my grass game is at 70%, but I’m getting better,” Halep said. “I changed some things during the match. I’m doing different things, which makes me happy.”
“I have one more match tomorrow, doubles, and then I go to Wimbledon. Expectations are pretty okay in my head, but I’m not putting pressure on myself. I will just take it match by match and see how good I can be on grass this year.”
Garbine Muguruza Maintains Strong Start To Season At The Australian Open
Garbine Muguruza advanced to the third round of the Australian Open with a hard-fought three-set win over Alja Tomljanovic.
Garbine Muguruza beat Alja Tomljanovic 6-3 3-6 6-3 in a fascinating duel to earn a place in the third round of the 2020 Australian Open.
It is a result that enables the Spaniard, 26, to maintain her encouraging start to the new season. She won three matches in Shenzhen and two in Hobart. Then she beat Shelby Rogers in three sets in the first round at Melbourne Park.
All these wins are significant for Muguruza because of her struggles in 2019. Between the end of the French Open in June and the end of her season in September, the two-time Grand Slam champion only won one match.
During that three-month dry spell, the Spaniard parted with long-time coach Sam Sumyk and did some work with Spanish Fed Cup captain Anabel Medina Garrigues.
However, that arrangement did not last long. Muguruza announced in November that Conchita Martinez would become her coach again in 2020. Martinez famously guided the younger Spaniard to Wimbledon glory in 2017.
So far, the Muguruza-Martinez partnership is paying off. The Spaniard has re-discovered her assurance on court and she looks much calmer than she did for most of 2019.
Muguruza deals well with Tomljanovic
In the match against Tomljanovic, the former World No.1 had the right approach. She played a solid first set while the Australian was a little wayward and won it 6-3.
Then Muguruza’s form dipped and she lost the second set. But, crucially, she did not seem to be too bothered by this setback.
Instead, the Spaniard simply focused on the decider and produced her best tennis of the match to overcome an undeniably talented opponent who also played a good set.
“It was a tough battle,” Muguruza said in her on-court interview. “I think Alja played very well so I had to level up my game and stay in the fight until the last moment.”
The Spaniard continued, “I’m very excited to work with Conchita again. I’ve known her since I was 14 so we understand each other very well.”
Muguruza will take on either Elina Svitolina or Lauren Davis in the last 32.
Bencic passes Ostapenko test
Players often say that they struggle to find any kind of rhythm against Jelena Ostapenko because she tries to hit virtually every ball for a winner.
Given this, it will come as no great surprise to anyone that the Latvian employed that exact approach against Belinda Bencic in their second-round match.
While Ostapenko was going for everything, the Swiss player at the other end did everything she could to stay in contention at all times. If the Latvian pulled ahead, Bencic tried to make her play extra shots. If the World No.6 faced break points, she tried to hit aces so that her opponent had no chance of hitting a winner.
On this occasion, Bencic did not play particularly well, and she did not execute a particularly high percentage of the shots she attempted. However, she did enough to win a rollercoaster first set that included seven breaks 7-5. Then she recovered well from 2-5 in the second set to win it by the same score as the first.
It is a very useful skill to be able to win without playing at your best. Bencic has now done that in both of her matches so far. She will now play either Annet Kontaveit or Sara Sorribes Tormo in the third round.
Elsewhere in Melbourne, Donna Vekic continued her impressive progress at this year’s Australian Open. She hit 38 winners during a comfortable 6-4 6-2 win over Alize Cornet.
Coach Of Dayana Yastremska Blasts Wozniacki’s Claim Of Fake Medical Timeout At Australian Open
One of the rising stars of the women’s tour is facing allegations of poor sportsmanship.
The chief coach of Dayana Yastremska has insisted that the world No.21 had been suffering from a problem with her leg after it was alleged that she deliberate called a medical time out to disrupt her opponent’s momentum.
The 23rd seed crashed out of the Australian Open in straight sets on Wednesday to Caroline Wozniacki. Despite having a double break advantage during both of those sets. Towards the end of the match, proceedings were halted when Yastremska sought medical assistance. She called for a trainer whilst trailing 5-7, 4-5. Prompting the former world No.1 to question her motives on the court.
“Obviously she tried to break my rhythm. And at 5-4 I don’t think there is anything wrong. She was running just fine. So that’s a trick that she’s done before, and I knew that it was coming.” Wozniacki commented during her press conference.
“But I was just trying to stay focused. I had match point. I had chances. I didn’t take them. Some of them she played well; some of them I played too passively.’
“In the end I just tried to keep focusing, just keep grinding, keep hanging in there. And I finally made it at 6-5 for me, and that was a nice relief.”
Despite the timeout, it had little impact on the outcome. With the soon-to-be-retired Wozniacki prevailing 7-5, 7-5. A case of sweet revenge for the Dane who lost to Yastremska last year in Cincinnati.
The allegations made against the 19-year-old has prompted a furious response from her coach Sascha Bajin on social media. Bajin is best known for previously guiding Naomi Osaka to both of her grand slam titles and has also previously worked with Kristina Mladenovic.
“Just to shut some people up and end this useless convo. Dayana was really struggling since days with her leg, but since y’all are all doctors and coaches you know better then she herself or our whole team who’s working with her.” He wrote on Twitter.
Historically, Yastremska does have a history of taking late media timeouts during matches. In the final of the Thailand Open last year, she requested a break whilst down 2-5 in the final set of the title match. Upon resumption, she went on to win the title. Meanwhile, Kiki Bertens also previously cast shade on her rival.
“Well, I played her three times and three times it happened, so that’s my answer,” The Dutch player said earlier this month during the Brisbane International.
Yastremska have won three WTA titles so far in her career with two of those triumphs occurring last year. It is the first time she has failed to win back-to-back matches at a grand slam since the French Open.
Coco Gauff Undeterred By Mouthwatering Australian Open Showdown With Osaka
The rising star looks ahead to her clash with the world No.4.
Teenage sensation Coco Gauff says she has nothing to lose in her upcoming clash with Naomi Osaka at the Australian Open.
Gauff, who is the youngest player in this year’s draw at the age of 15, battled into the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday. Taking on Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, the American prevailed 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, after more than two hours of play. Coming back from a 0-3 deficit in the deciding set to progress into the last 32 of the tournament on her debut. Gauff has now won six main draw grand slam matches before her 16th birthday.
“I think I was just trying to stay calm mostly and stay positive. I’ve always believed that I can come back regardless of the score.” She commented about her latest win.
“The whole match I knew I needed to be more aggressive. I guess I finally decided to do that even though I wish I decided earlier.’
“I think I kind of felt the momentum changing. I knew I had to keep pressing.”
Tipped to be a future star of the women’s game, Gauff achieved another record with her latest win. She is the first female American player to reach the third round of her first three grand slam tournaments in 30 years. A fete that wasn’t even achieved by the formidable Williams sisters.
The reward for the youngster is a second meeting with two-time grand slam champion Naomi Osaka, who won the Australian Open title 12 months ago. They first clashed at the US Open last September with the Japanese player dropping only three games against Gauff.
Despite being the underdog in the upcoming match, Gauff has vowed to give it her all. Now familiar with Osaka’s game on the court, the world No.67 believes she will be ‘less nervous’ during their next meeting.
“I think in general my mindset has always been nothing to lose really. Even when in juniors, even though I was ranked pretty high in juniors, I was technically supposed to win. Then I still felt like I had nothing to lose.” She explained.
“I still feel that now. I think my mindset just is I’m going to fight. If I lose, the world is not going to end. I’m going to have another match in maybe a week or so.’
“I think it’s just less pressure to win. I feel like for me, I’m not trying to win so much, but trying to play my best tennis on the court. Winning comes with that if I play good.”
Reflecting on their previous encounter, Gauff paid tribute to her rival. Who consoled her tearful opponent on the court following their match at the Arthur Ashe stadium. A gestured hailed by the teenager as ‘true sportsmanship.’
“I think that’s something if I had a child or something, that’s something I would want my child to see.” She said.
“It just shows what being a competitor really is. You might hate the person on the court, but off the court you love them, not really like hate. But you want to win.’
“Sometimes when we’re on the court, we say things we don’t mean because we have that mentality.”
Gauff will play Osaka on Friday. Osaka beat China’s Zheng Saisai 6-2, 6-4, in her second round match earlier in the day.
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