Less than a week after winning her first grand slam title at the French Open, many pundits are already backing Australia’s Ash Barty to win the Wimbledon Championships next month.
At Roland Garros the 23-year-old prevailed during what was a lacklustre women’s draw. On route to victory, she scored wins over Madison Keys and Amanda Anisimova. Then in the final, she cruised to a 6-1, 6-3, win over Marketa Vondrousova. Becoming the first player from her country to win the French Open since Margaret Court back in 1973.
“It’s been an incredible couple of weeks, that’s for sure.” Barty said following her win in Paris. “I think any time I can play my brand of tennis, I know that I can match it against the best in the world.”
“For the last fortnight, the stars have aligned for me. I have been able to play really good tennis when I’ve needed it.”
The clay has never been Barty’s favourite surface. She hadn’t won a singles title on the dirt until Paris this year. 12 months ago, she told reporters, ‘a week on the clay is a week closer to the grass season.’ Now ranked two in the world, nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova believes the Australian has what it takes to conquer the All England Club.
“There’s no doubt that Barty can win Wimbledon – grass allows her to make use of all the shots and options that she has in her game. Whatever Barty did on clay, she can do even better on grass. She has all the shots.” Navratilova wrote in an article for wtatour.com.
“I would actually say Barty has more options than any other player in women’s tennis.” She added.
It was at Wimbledon, where she won her first and only grand slam title at junior level. In 2011 she defeated Irina Khromacheva to win the girls title at the age of 15. Becoming only the second player from her country to do so after Debbie Freeman back in 1980. However, on the professional tour Barty to yet to go beyond the third round.
“Barty’s slice is more effective on grass than it is on clay. Players on the WTA Tour have a hard time handling slice, because most of them don’t want to be inside the baseline. Also with the ball skidding through low, they’re hitting a defensive shot from inside the baseline which makes them vulnerable.” Navratilova explained.
“Barty’s also a great volleyer – she can even throw in a serve-and-volley play once in a while, and mix it up, maybe chip and charge on a second serve. All of this variety can really get into an opponent’s head and create confusion and some cheap mistakes on her opponent’s side.”
Another backer is Pat Cash, who won the Wimbledon title back in 1987. Speaking about the 23-year-old during an interview with The Daily Mail, Cash believes Barty will be a ‘real threat’ in grand slam tournaments over the foreseeable future.
“She hasn’t been that successful yet in singles yet, but there’s no reason she shouldn’t be. She got the final of the (2013) doubles,’ he said.
‘Her serve has significantly improved in the past three to six months. The sliced backhand is very effective on the grass. She’s the best volleyer on tour. She has a grass-court game – clay is her worst surface so it looks pretty good for her!”
Former doubles specialist Renee Stubbs believes her compatriot will peak on the tour in two to four years time. Saying that there is more to come from her. Stubbs is currently the coach of Karolina Pliskova.
“Ash has a very good chance at Wimbledon. She can play on every surface and always says she is strongest on grass, although it was no surprise to me she won the French Open, as I always thought she could be great on clay.” Stubbs told Omnisport earlier this week.
“There is no question she can win another slam. She is only going to get better and better and I think she will peak at 25, 26, maybe 27.
“She has so many shots to choose from and I think when you are an all-court player like that, you get better as you get older.”
Barty is set to begin her grass-court season next week at the Nature Valley Championships in Birmingham.
Barty’s 2018 grass season
- Nottingham – defeated Naomi Osaka and Joanna Konta on route to her first WTA title on the surface
- Birmingham – R2 (lost to Julie Goerges)
- Eastbourne – QF (lost to Caroline Wozniacki)
- Wimbledon – R3 (lost to Daria Kasatkina)
Svetlana Kuznetsova completes her come-back by reaching the semifinal in Cincinnati
Two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova came back from one set down to beat Karolina Pliskova 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 to secure her spot in the semifinal of the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati.
Kuznetsova, who was sidelined by a knee injury in the first half of the season, bounced back last week when she reached the third round at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. She beat Anastasija Sevastova, Dayana Yastremska and Sloane Stephens en route to the semifinal.
Kuznetsova hit 30 winners and broke three times to close out the match after 2 hours and 23 minutes.
Pliskova converted her only break point at love in the second game to win the opening set 6-3.
Pliskova saved three break points to hold serve at deuce in the fourth game before breaking serve at 15 to take a 4-3 lead. Kuznetsova broke back at 15 in the 10th game to draw level to 5-5. Kuznetsova earned four set points and converted her first chance to seal the tie-break 7-2.
Kuznetsova went up a break at love in the third game of the decisive set to take a 2-1 lead. Both Pliskova and Kuznetsova saved two break points in the fifth and sixth games. Kuznetsova sealed the win with a double break in the ninth game.
The Russian player set up a semifinal against 2019 Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty, who came back from one set down to beat Maria Sakkari 5-7 6-2 6-0.
Madison Keys Finally Finds Her Footing After Tough Few Weeks
Can the former top 10 player return to peak form in time for the US Open?
Entering into this week’s Western and Southern Open a single win would have been a much needed boost for Madison Keys ahead of the final grand slam of the season.
Keys, a former grand slam finalist herself, has been unable to shine on the women’s tour since reaching the quarter-finals of the French Open. In her past three tournaments, she has won one out of four matches played. To make it worse, two out of those three losses were to player’s ranked outside the top 100.
Fortunately for Keys her lull on the tour has ended this week in Cincinnati. An event where she made her debut back in 2012 at the age of 17. In the first round she saw off former world No.1 Garbine Muguruza in three sets before brushing aside Daria Kasatkina. However, her most impressive victory took place on Thursday. Taking on Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, Keys held her nerve to prevail 6-1, 3-6, 7-5, after just over two hours of play. Her first win over a top five player since Angelique Kerber at the same tournament 12 months ago.
“She’s been No. 1 for a reason, won Grand Slams for a reason. I knew that she wasn’t just going to, you know, ever give up or give in. I knew the entire time I had to fully win the match before, you know, I could actually take a deep breath.” Keys said following her latest win.
“I think I just kind of trusted myself a little bit, and I didn’t really hold back on any of my shots. I think I made a couple of bad misses, but at the same time I think I did a lot of really good things.”
The triumphs come as Keys and her rivals tune up their game ahead of the US Open. Where the 24-year-old will be defending a wealth of points after reaching the semi-finals there last year. Flushing Meadows is a place of fond memories for former finalist Keys and statistically her most successful grand slam. Winning 19 out of 26 matches played in New York so far in her career.
“It feels a little bit better, a little less stressed. Ask me again in a week and I will be just as stressed.” She commented about her preparation for the upcoming major.
“In order to find that level right before a slam, obviously feels good, but especially after having some tough weeks, being able to kind of put it all together makes me feel a little bit better going into the US Open.”
Growing in confidence once again, Keys takes on tour veteran Venus Williams next. Their head-to-head is currently tied at 2-2, however, they haven’t played each other since 2016. A win would move the American into her first tour semi-final since April when she won the Volvo Open in Charleston.
“But again, she’s obviously playing some really good tennis in order to beat Kiki and then Vekic and all that. I’m going to have to see what she’s been doing well.” Keys previewed about her clash with Williams.
The quarter-final clash between the two will take place on Friday evening not before 19:00 local time. Keys is one of four seeded players remaining in the draw.
Madison Keys battles past Simona Halep to reach the quarter final in Cincinnati
Madison Keys beat this year’s Wimbledon champion Simona Halep 6-1 3-6 7-5 to advance to the quarter final at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati for the second consecutive year.
Madison Keys stopped a five-match losing streak against Simona Halep after a thrilling three-set match scoring her first win over the Romanian player in five years.
After beating Halep in their first head-to-head match in 2014, Keys lost five consecutive matches against her Romanian rival, including four in 2016. They met for the first time since the 2016 WTA Finals, where Halep beat Keys 6-2 6-4 in a round-robin match.
Keys never faced a break point and dropped just eight points in four service games and reeled off nine of the eleven points on Halep’s first serve to cruise through to a 6-1 win in 20 minutes.
In the second set Halep dropped her serve twice, but she converted three of the ten break points. The Romanian player held her serve at love for the first time in the match to win the second set sending the match to the third set.
Keys went up a 3-0 lead in the decider and earned four break points for 4-0. Halep converted her fifth break points at deuce and held serve at love to draw level to 3-3. Keys did not convert a match point at 5-4, but she sealed the win by breaking serve with a forehand winner in the 12th game at deuce to the delight of the home crowd.
“I think I played really smart tonight. Obviously I played a really good first set, and I don’t think she played her best tennis in the first set. I think the third set we played a pretty high level of tennis. I think it was the first time that I played a little bit more within myself and didn’t try to do too much too soon. She has been number 1 for a reason, won Grand Slams for a reason. I knew that she wasn’t just going to give up or give in. I knew the entire time I had to fully win the match before I could take a deep breath. I am really happy after losing my lead in the third set, I was able to get back. It definitely reminds me that when I am in the right mindset and playing some good tennis, I can compete with anyone”, said Keys.
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