Ash Barty Hopes To Avoid Kvitova Heartbreak After Erratic Fourth Round Win At Australian Open - UBITENNIS
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Ash Barty Hopes To Avoid Kvitova Heartbreak After Erratic Fourth Round Win At Australian Open

It was a tough day at the office for Barty, who has a shot at revenge in the next round against a two-time grand slam champion.

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Ash Barty overcame a stern test to progress to the quarter-finals of the Australian Open for only the second time in her career.

 

The top seed produced glimmers of both her best and worst form throughout her 6-3, 1-6, 6-4, win over America’s Alison Riske. The player who knocked out of the Wimbledon Championships last year. Barty looked at times tentative on the court, but found another gear in her play when required. Improving her head-to-head record against Riske to 2-1.

“I just had to hang in there. It was very tough from the different ends (of the court) playing very differently.” Barty said during her on-court interview.
“I just had to hang in there and try to give myself a chance.”

Throughout her latest clash against the world No.19, Barty’s quest for consistency vanished at times. Best illustrated by the match statistics, which saw her hit 20 winners to 34 unforced errors. Another issue for Barty was her second serve, where she won just seven out of 24 points. Reflecting on her performance, the 23-year-old admitted that she struggled with the windy conditions in Melbourne.

“It’s (the wind) exceptionally hard on you when the ball is from one end of the court. On the other you can’t really feel it.” She explained.
“When it’s behind you, you have to think really smart and try to use it.”

At the start of the match Barty went off guns blazing with the help of a combination of both powerful shot-making and slice. During the opening set, the crowd favourite broke twice en route to taking a 6-3 lead in just 35 minutes. However, Riske refused to go down without a fight. Capitalising on some costly mistakes from the French Open champion, she raced through the second set with ease to draw level. Silencing the animated crowd on the Rod Laver Arena.

With a place in the last eight of a grand slam at stake, the cat and mouse chase continued into the decider. Once again Barty looked to be in control of proceedings as she raced to a 4-1 lead with the help of two love service games. Still, it was not enough to down her opponents spirits. Once again Riske fought back with the help of a three-game streak to draw level.

Despite the scares, Barty still managed to find a way to score victory. With Riske serving to stay in the match, the 29-year-old produced a duo of fatal errors. At 30-30 a backhand error elevated the top seed to her first match point. Then a double fault brought an anticlimactic ending to the encounter to send Barty through.

In the last eight it will be a case of deja vu for the world No.1. She will take on Petra Kvitova, who knocked her out of the tournament at the same stage last year. However, since then Barty has beaten the Czech three times on the tour.

“I love Petra but lets hope she doesn’t break my heart on Tuesday.” She said.
“It’s been an incredible year for me the last 12 months. I’m just excited that I get another opportunity in the quarter-final of a grand slam. You don’t get those every week.”

The mutual respect between the two players was also echoed by Kvitova, who defeated Maria Sakkari on Sunday. She was runner-up in Melbourne last year to Naomi Osaka.

“Ash we have obviously played many times. We played here last year in the quarters. I like her. She’s a great person.” Said Kvitova.
“Whatever will happen will happen. One of us will go through. It will be a tough match, for sure. I try my best, and we’ll see how that goes.”

Barty is bidding to become the first home player to win a singles title at the Australian Open since 1978.

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Aryna Sabalenka Explains Reason Behind Recent Breakthrough On The Clay

The 25-year-old has proclaimed that she is no longer scared of the surface.

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Aryna Sabalenka (image via Media Hub Mutua Madrid Open)

Aryna Sabalenka believes her notable improvement on the clay has been achieved due to a change in how she approaches the surface mentally.

 

The Belarusian lifted the biggest title of her career to date on the surface at the Madrid Open on Saturday. In the final she rallied to a three-set win over world No.1 Ash Barty to avenge her loss to the Australian in Stuttgart a couple weeks earlier. She has now won ten out of 11 matches played on the clay so far this year which is more than she has won during each of her three previous seasons. Prior to 2020 she has only reached the final of a WTA event on the dirt once.

Speaking to reporters following her triumph in Madrid, the 23-year-old says she had been ‘overthinking’ about playing on the surface until this season. Instead she has taken a more relaxed approach which seems to have done wonders to her game.

“I would say before I was thinking too much about the clay court, that this is a surface not for me, that it’s really tough to play on with long rallies,” she said.
“This year I kind of relaxed and just played my game. I worked a lot on the movement, so I prepared myself really well.’

It has to be noted that conditions in Madrid also favour the big hitters such as Sabalenka. Due to Madrid’s high altitude the ball travels faster than other tournaments in Rome and Paris.

“My focus is just on my game, that I have to stay aggressive, that I have to move well on the clay court, make sure I can hit these shots really clean, heavy shots,” Sabalenka explained.
“Something has changed in my mind for the clay court for this year. I’m not really scared of this surface any more.”

It remains to be seen if the breakthrough will do any wonders for Sabalenka in the Grand Slams. At the French Open she has only managed to claim back-to-back wins in one out of three appearances. Reaching the third round in Paris last year. Despite being ranked continuously in the world’s top 20 since August 2018, she has only managed to reach the fourth round of a major twice so far in her career.

Nevertheless, things are going in the right direction for Sabalenka who will rise to a ranking high of fourth in the world on Monday. She is also a top-five doubles player on the Tour as well.

“That’s unbelievable. That’s crazy,” she commented on her rise to No.4. “I’m really happy with this improvement. There are still a lot of things to improve.’
“I’m not really focusing on the ranking. I’m focusing more on my game”
Sabalenka added.

Sabalenka will be seeded seventh at the upcoming Italian Open where she has a bye in the first round. Her opening match will be against either Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo or Italy’s Camila Giorgi.

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Sabalenka Wins 10th Career Title In Madrid

Aryna Sabalenka won her 10th career title in Madrid with a three set win over Ash Barty.

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Aryna Sabalenka (@MutuaMadridOpen - Twitter)

The Belarusian beat the world number one in three sets to claim the title in the Spanish capital.

 

Aryna Sabalenka is your Mutua Madrid Open champion after beating the world number one and Aussie Ash Barty in three sets 6-0, 3-6, 6-4 hitting 34 winners and serving nine aces in the win.

“I’m really happy with the win, it was a crazy match and I’m really happy and it feels amazing right now”

The Belarusian got off to the best possible start holding her opening service game and going right to work on getting the early break which she did the following at the second time of asking with solid return forehand winner.

The Aussie looked out of sorts and in 25 minutes the number five seed had blitzed through the first set and won it not losing a game.

The world number one was determined to stay in the match and had four chances to break in the very first game of the second set and did at the fourth time of asking to take an early 1-0 lead.

At 2-1 the number five seed earned two chances to get the break back and go back on serve and she did just that with one of her powerful forehand winners.

The very next game the Belarusian struggled on serve and gave the world number one another chance to break after a double fault and she would break again.

That break was enough for the Aussie to take the second set and force a deciding third set for the title.

The first three games went with serve and at 2-1 it was the Aussie once again with two chances to break after another double fault but the number five dug in once again and managed to save both breakpoints and hold serve.

At 4-4 it was the Belarusian turn to apply pressure on the world number one and she earned three breakpoints and she would get the crucial break with a stunning return winner.

She would serve out the match to extract revenge on her Aussie opponent for beating her the previous week in Stuttgart and on Monday will be the new world number four.

After the match in her post match press conference Sabalenka told Ubitennis how she was able to overcome the adversity of losing the second set.

“That is why she is number one, she is always trying to find a way and she did it really well in the second set, the first set was a really quick one and I was surprised and in the second set she started using the slice more and moving better and was a little bit more aggressive, it was a great level during the entire match and I am really happy that I could finish it with a win”

Sabalenka will now travel to Rome to play in the Italian Open and as of Monday will be the new world number four when the new rankings are posted which is a career-high.

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Five Takeaways From Men’s And Women’s Rome Draws

Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams and Bianca Andreescu all return to Rome next week.

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Novak Djokovic (@usopen - Twitter)

Here are five things to take away from Men’s and Women’s singles draw from Rome.

 

Next week is the start of the next stop on the road to Roland Garros as the ATP and WTA tour heads to Rome next week.

The Italian capital will host a star-studded line-up as Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep look to defend their titles.

With another week of stacked ATP and WTA draws here, let us take a look at the five key points to take from this week’s draws:

  • Nadal Set For Zverev Rematch

Rafael Nadal could have a rematch with Alexander Zverev again in Rome next week as has already faced a mixed start to the clay court season. A quarter-final defeat to Andrey Rublev in Monaco was followed by a Barcelona title before losing to Zverev in the Madrid quarter-finals this week. It looks set to be another week where Nadal could face the tall German, whom he has lost on three consecutive occasions to. Before Nadal can get to Zverev, Nadal may have to overcome Jannik Sinner and Casper Ruud, two rising stars who are capable on this surface.

  • Serena Handed Good Draw On Tennis Return

Next week will see Serena Williams return to a tennis court for the first time since her Australian Open semi-final defeat to Naomi Osaka. Having had her physical struggles since the end of last season, Serena now competes in a limited schedule but will be keen to boost her Roland Garros chances next week in Rome. The 23-time grand slam champion could face Roland Garros semi-finalist Nadia Podoroska in her first match before Belinda Bencic stands in her way of a rematch with Osaka in the last eight.

  • Djokovic Looks To Avenge Recent Clay Losses

After winning the Australian Open in January, Novak Djokovic would have wanted a better clay-court season than he has had after being knocked out by Dan Evans in the third round in Monaco and an epic semi-final loss to Aslan Karatsev in Belgrade. After taking Madrid off, Djokovic looks to build momentum and may have to face Dan Evans again this week in his first match. The likes of Grigor Dimitrov and Stefanos Tsitsipas await Djokovic en route to the last four where Dominic Thiem and Andrey Rublev will wait for the Serb.

  • The Barty Party Looks To Roll On

Ash Barty is silencing the critics week by week and proving why she deserves her world number one ranking after winning Miami, Stuttgart and reaching the final in Madrid. In two of those three tournaments mentioned Barty would have played Aryna Sabalenka in the final. Although that won’t be happening in the final, she could face the Belarusian in the quarter-finals in Italy as a fairly comfortable draw has presented itself for the Australian. Barty’s first opponent will be either Martina Trevisan or Yaroslava Shvedova.

  • Bianca Andreescu Returns

After suffering an injury in the Miami final and testing positive for COVID-19 in Madrid, Bianca Andreescu looks to finally settle into a clay-court season as she returns in Rome. The tricky Canadian will start off against Anastasija Sevastova or Jil Teichmann before facing Petra Kvitova. If Andreescu can negotiate the first two rounds then a dream match with Simona Halep could await in the last eight. As for Halep her Rome campaign could start against Angelique Kerber.

Here is the full ATP and WTA draw:

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