World number one Ash Barty edged out Karolina Pliskova 4-6 6-2 6-3 to reach the final at the WTA Finals, where she will play Elina Svitolina.
The Australian overcame an early Pliskova barrage to break three times and secure a three set win that ensures she plays the Championship match in Shenzhen.
Although the Czech Republican gained the early momentum, the second set produced a flat performance in the second half of the match.
Next for Barty in the final is defending champion Elina Svitolina after her opponent Belinda Bencic retired at 4-1 down in the final set.
In the first meeting between the top two players in the world on the WTA side this season, it was Pliskova who made the better start as she created five break points opportunities in the first two return games.
The signs were there that Pliskova’s returning was going to be the key shot especially when capitalising on the weak Barty second serve.
On her eight break point the world number two secured the break for a 3-2 lead as the Roland Garros Champion was struggling to get her forehand into play effectively.
Winning 74% of first service points as she cruised to service holds until the last game where Barty tried to take advantage to of Pliskova’s nerves.
However the Czech Republican managed to hold on to win the first set 6-4.
It was the second seed who had the momentum at the start of the second set as well as she created four break points on the Barty serve.
But some missed forehands saw frustration appear in Pliskova’s game as she failed to break which was the momentum swing that Barty needed.
The very next game saw the 23 year-old secure the crucial break for a 3-1 lead as the slice was causing problems for Pliskova.
Another break in the eighth game sealed the second set for the Australian as this match was heading to a deciding set.
To decide the winner it was all about who was more clinical with their opportunities and with her first break point of the set Barty struck with some brilliant movement towards the net.
There was more flow to Barty’s play as she started to hit the forehand more cleanly as she was now in control of the contest.
No opportunities were created for Pliskova as on third match point, the Australian sealed her place in the final WTA match of the season.
A much better second half of the match secured Barty’s place in the final showdown in Shenzhen where she will play defending WTA Finals champion Elina Svitolina.
The Ukrainian lead Belinda Bencic 5-7 6-3 4-1 before the Swiss retired as she ended her season in tears. After the match Svitolina admitted it was tough to win in those circumstances, “It’s tough to play someone who has been injured, been injured on the court,” Svitolina said after the match.
“It was tough for her. It’s still kind of not realizing that I’m in the final. It’s the very, very last match of the season. Definitely tomorrow, I’m going to leave everything on the court and fight just to try to get another trophy here.”
Cincinnati Daily Preview: Quarterfinals Featuring Medvedev/Fritz and Alcaraz/Norrie
Friday’s ATP singles quarterfinals feature six of the top 13 players in the world. By contrast, in the WTA singles draw, the top five seeds have all been eliminated, and only two seeds remain.
Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule. Friday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.
Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Taylor Fritz (11) – Not Before 1:00pm on Center Court
Medvedev has earned both his wins this week in straight sets, while Fritz came back from a set down on Thursday to defeat Daniil’s close friend Andrey Rublev. The 24-year-old American is having the best year of his career, with a record of 35-13. Taylor is on the verge of breaking into the top 10, and would be even closer to doing so had he received points for his run to the Wimbledon quarterfinals. He earned his first Masters 1000 title at another North American hard court event earlier this year in Indian Wells. In their first career meeting, Fritz has the firepower to pull off the upset, especially with a partisan crowd behind him. But on a hard court, Medvedev remains the favorite to reach his third semifinal in Cincinnati.
Cameron Norrie (9) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (3) – Last on Center Court
This will be their fourth meeting within the past year, and thus far, all three have gone to Alcaraz. That includes straight sets wins at the US Open and Indian Wells, and a three-set victory in Madrid on clay. As impressive as Norrie has been across the past 18 months, no one has skyrocketed to new heights this past year like Alcaraz. The 19-year-old is now 44-8 in 2022. However, the sheer amount of tennis the youngster has played this year is concerning, despite his high level of fitness. And many of those matches have been grueling, dramatic affairs. Given his recent history with Norrie, Carlitos should be favored, though an upset by the British No.1 would not be a shocking result.
Other Notable Matches on Friday:
Madison Keys vs. Elena Rybakina – Keys upset world No.1 Iga Swiatek on Thursday. Both Keys and Rybakina are yet to drop a set this week. When they played at this year’s Roland Garros, Madison prevailed in a third-set tiebreak.
Ajla Tomljanovic (Q) vs. Petra Kvitova – Tomljanovic has survived four consecutive three-setters, going back to the last round of qualifying on Sunday. Kvitova took out Ons Jabeur on Thursday.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. John Isner – Tsitsipas lead their head-to-head 4-2, and has taken their last four meetings. Stefanos is vying for his third consecutive semifinal at this event. Isner was a finalist here in 2013.
Jessica Pegula (7) vs. Caroline Garcia – Pegula is now No.3 in the year-to-date rankings, with a record of 30-15. However, Garcia has slightly bested that record, as she’s now 32-15 this season. Jess is 2-1 against Caroline, though the Frenchwoman claimed their only meeting in 2022.
Felix Auger-Aliassime (7) vs. Borna Coric (Q) – Auger-Aliassime saved two match points on Thursday night in a comeback victory over Jannik Sinner. Coric followed up his upset of Rafael Nadal by defeating another Spaniard, Roberto Bautista Agut. Felix and Borna split two encounters back in 2019.
Friday’s full Order of Play is here.
Cincinnati Daily Preview: A Loaded Schedule Features All Third Round Matches
Thursday’s schedule in Cincinnati is overflowing with appealing contests. ATP third round singles action is especially stacked, featuring 11 of the world’s top 20, including world No.1 Daniil Medvedev and Carlos Alcaraz. WTA action features top names such as world No.1 Iga Swiatek and reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu.
Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule. Thursday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.
Jessica Pegula (7) vs. Emma Raducanu (10) – Not Before 7:00pm on Center Court
It’s been a tough season for Raducanu, but she seems to be peaking just in time for her US Open title defense. The 19-year-old followed up her comfortable victory over Serena Williams by dominating Victoria Azarenka 6-0, 6-2. She is currently in a trial coaching relationship with Dmitry Tursunov, who in recent years guided the careers of two other WTA players to new heights (Sabalenka, Kontaveit). That partnership appears to be paying immediate dividends for Emma, much like Tursunov’s coaching did for Aryna and Anett. Pegula has become the American No.1, and since last August, has reached the semifinals at three WTA 1000 events in North America, including just last week in Toronto. But in their first career meeting, Raducanu’s blistering form this week makes her the favorite.
Felix Auger-Aliassime (7) vs. Jannik Sinner (10) – Not Before 7:00pm on Grand Stand
This is a rematch from three months ago at the Madrid Masters 1000 event, where Auger-Aliassime crushed Sinner 6-1, 6-2. That was an especially surprising result on clay, which is not Felix’s best surface. The 22-year-old Canadian is now 35-19 on the year, and defeated Alex de Minaur in straight sets on Wednesday. Sinner has a slightly better record of 38-10, and on Tuesday, outlasted Thanasi Kokkinakis in an over three-hour match decided by a third-set tiebreak. Over the last few months, Sinner has been the more in-form player. Jannik has won nine of his last 11 matches, while Felix has only managed five of his last 10. With not much separating their abilities, confidence may be key, and that’s to Sinner’s advantage.
Other Notable Matches on Thursday:
Taylor Fritz (11) vs. Andrey Rublev (6) – Fritz easily dismissed of an obviously-hampered Nick Kyrgios on Wednesday. Rublev came back from a set down to take out Fabio Fognini. Taylor is 3-2 against Andrey, which includes a straight set victory earlier this year at Indian Wells.
Petra Kvitova vs. Ons Jabeur (5) – Jabeur saved three match points on Wednesday against Ohio native Katy McNally. A round earlier, Kvitova saved match point against last year’s runner-up, Jil Teichmann. Petra leads their head-to-head 3-1, though Ons earned her first win in their friendly rivalry this season.
Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Madison Keys – On Wednesday, Swiatek outlasted the other finalist from the 2017 US Open, Sloane Stephens. On the same day, Keys ousted another French Open champion, Jelena Ostapenko.
Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Denis Shapovalov – This week, Shapovalov has earned his first back-to-back wins since May. He has split four previous meetings with Medvedev, though Daniil has claimed their most recent two.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Diego Schwartzman (13) – Schwartzman already survived two three-setters this week. He’s 2-2 overall against Tsitsipas, though Diego has taken both of their matches on hard courts.
Marin Cilic (14) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (3) – Cilic won this event in 2016. He’s 1-1 against Alcaraz, who is now 43-8 in 2022.
Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.
‘It Feels Amazing’ – Emma Raducanu Crushes Soon-To-Be Retired Williams In Cincinnati
After defeating the 23-time Grand Slam champion, Raducanu has named another idol of hers who she would like to play on the Tour next.
Emma Raducanu says she is fortunate to have been able to cross paths with Serena Williams after dropping just four games against the tennis great at the Western and Southern Open on Tuesday.
Raducanu, who is the current US Open champion, eased her way to a 6-4, 6-0, win over the former world No.1 who recently announced that she will be ‘evolving’ away from the sport in the coming weeks. The Brit hit a total of 14 winners against just one unforced error and converted five out of her nine break point opportunities in what was the first Tour meeting between the two. She is the first player to bagel Williams since compatriot Johanna Konta did so at the 2018 San Jose Open.
“I think that a big part of the match was definitely the mental side, to not be intimidated by all her achievements,” Raducanu said during her press conference.
“That was what I was focusing the most on, just like being really, really present and thinking of my game, thinking of what I needed to do.’
“Physically I think that I held up pretty well. Like there were some longer exchanges and I held up well and I scrapped. I made her work. Sometimes I won the point when it mattered.”
The triumph brings Williams’ career at the Western and Southern Open to an end. She is a two-time champion of the tournament after winning back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014. She was also runner-up in 2012. In total, she has played in the tournament nine times over 14 years.
“Watching her growing up, it was an amazing experience to just play her. I think from the beginning to the end, I maybe looked calm, but I just knew how important every single point was because you let up a little bit and she’s going to be all over you.” Raducanu said in tribute to the American.
“Playing Serena and managing to win, I’m really proud of myself, and it does give me confidence.
“I think that at this level when you play anyone it’s a really difficult match. Each of those wins kind of builds confidence regardless of the level you’re playing, every single win counts. But of course, this one more so, because you’re playing like the greatest.” She added.
Raducanu’s triumph occurs during what is a roller-coaster season for the world No.13 who has been hampered by various physical issues. Since lifting the US Open title, she has won 14 out of 31 matches played with ten of those victories occurring in 2022. She is yet to defeat a top 20 player this year.
The next test for the 19-year-old will be Victoria Azarenka who defeated Kaia Kanepi in her first round match. Like Williams, the Belarussian is another player who has inspired Raducanu.
“She is a great champion. I remember more recently when she was playing in the US Open and made the final in 2020 during the bubble. I was studying for my exams. I hadn’t played tennis in like two, or three months, and I was kind of just dreaming that one day I’m going to play on Ashe, and one day I’m going to be at that level and play these great players myself. Everything felt so far away.” Raducanu recounted.
“Last year I have had great exposure to these great players, and every time you get to play them, you get to learn from them as well and what they do really well that has helped them in their careers.”
As for other players, she would like to face on the Tour, Raducanu has one in mind. That is two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep who the rising star describes as ‘the most complete player.’ Like Halep, Raducanu also has Romanian roots with her father coming from that country.
“I would love to play Simona, just because I think she is like, for me, all around the most complete player.” She said.
“She moves extremely well. She’s aggressive. She can defend. She makes you work so hard for every point. I think just to be able to feel that would be great.”
The only way Raducanu can play Halep in Cincinnati this week would be if both players reach the final.
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