A lacklustre playing Ash Barty was given a big scare early on in her opening match at the Australian Open after being forced to come back from a set down against Lesia Tsurenko.
The world No.1 rallied from behind to down Tsurenko 5-7, 6-1, 6-1. A player who is ranked more than 100 places lower than her. Barty’s opening encounter at Melbourne Park this year was very much a match of two halves. During the first 45 minutes, she looked tentative on court and struggled to find consistency in her shot making. Hitting 19 out of her 30 unforced errors during the opener. However, as the match progress Barty’s level elevated as she ended up racing towards the finish line with the help of a seven-game winning streak between the second and third set.
“I think in the first set I was still in control. It was just a little bit of execution.” Barty said during her on-court interview.
“I was just rushing a little bit, trying to finish off points too quickly. Once I was able to get my physicality into it, I felt more comfortable and I was able to look after my service games a little bit better.”
Barty, who won the Adelaide International last week, struggled with her serve early on against her Ukrainian rival. Throughout the first set the world No.1 went down a break twice before fighting her way back to draw level. The at times erratic hitting from Barty, ended up costing her the opening set against Tsurenko. Who clinched the lead at the expense of a double fault from the top seed.
With a muted silence around the usually animated Rod Laver Arena, Barty finally managed to find her footing in the match and rapidly did so. Significantly elevating her form and benefiting from a slight lull in the intensity coming from across the court, she charged through the second set in just 27 minutes. Impressively winning 27 out of 39 points played that triggered a huge roar from her home crowd.
Continuing to turn her fortunes around, Barty broke once again at the start of the decider with the help of a Tsurenko double fault. Continuing to exert her dominance on proceedings, the double break was sealed shortly afterwards, when the Australian broke to love two games later. In the lead, it was only a matter of time before victory was Barty’s, who converted her first match point following Tsurenko’s eighth double fault.
“It’s all good.” She joked about her minor scare. “It’s amazing to be back out here (on the Rod Laver Arena). Obviously it’s a tight turnaround from Adelaide but it’s nice to sort it (my game) out at the start of the second set. I sharpened up and did what I needed to do.”
“This is the moment I’ve been looking forward to the most. Through the off-season I couldn’t wait to walk out on this beautiful court and play in front of so many people who gives me so much love and support. It’s incredible.” She added.
Barty, who is yet to go beyond the quarter-finals in Melbourne, is bidding to become the first Australian player to win a singles title at the tournament since 1978. In the second round she will play either Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson or Slovenia’s Polona Hercog.
Barty’s first round stats
- Aces – 10
- First serves won – 78% (32/41)
- Second serves won – 48% (15/31)
- Winners – 20
- Unforced errors – 30
- break points converted – 7/10
Marketa Vondrousova eases past Anastasija Sevastova in Dubai
Last year’s Roland Garros finalist Marketa Vondrousova eased past Anastasija Sevastova 6-3 6-2 after 1 hour and nine minutes to reach the second round at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Vondrousova saved all five break points she faced and converted three of her four chances. The Czech player built up a 4-1 lead with a break in the opening set. Sevastova earned two break-back points at 4-2, but Vondrousova held her serve after four deuces.
Sevastova held serve at love for 5-3 forcing Vondrousova to serve for the set. Vondrousova earned three set points with a dropshot winner and converted her first chance with a drop volley.
Vondrousova earned an early break to take a 2-1 lead in the second set and backed it up to open up a 3-1 lead. Vondrousova went up a double break in the seventh game and converted the first of her three match points with an ace to set up a second round match against either Elina Svitolina or US qualifier Jennifer Brady.
Vondrousova made her come-back at last January’s Australian Open after undergoing surgery last year.
“I know Sevastova is a good player. We played once. I expected a tough match. It was a late match, so I had to stay calm. I am just happy with my win”,said Vondrousova.
Ons Jabeur edges Alison Riske to advance to the second round in Dubai
This year’s Australian Open quarter finalist Ons Jabeur came through a tough battle to edge US Alison Riske 7-6 (7-3) 1-6 6-3 after 2 hours and 13 minutes in their first head-to-head match at the Dubai Duty Free Championships.
Jabeur hit 28 winners to 31 unforced errors, while Riske committed 34 unforced errors to just 11 winners.
Riske won the first eight points of the match to break serve in the first game to open up a 2-0 lead. Jabeur broke back in the fourth game with a forehand down the line to draw level to 2-2. Jabeur saved three break points in the seventh game to hold serve to hold serve for 3-4. Riske fended off two break points in the tenth game to hold serve for 5-5. Riske held serve in the 12th game to draw level to 6-6 after four double faults from Jabeur. The Tunisian player raced out to a 5-0 lead before closing out the first set on her fourth set point.
Riske went up a double break to race out to a 4-0 lead and closed out the second set with two dropshots. Jabeur received a medical time-out for blisters on both feet while she was trailing 0-5.
The third set started with four consecutive holds. Both players saved break points in the next four deuce games. Jabeur faced two break points at 3-3, but she saved them with two forehands before holding with a backhand winner. Jabeur converted her second break point chance at deuce to take a 5-3 lead before serving out the win at love. Jabeur will face Simona Halep in the second round.
World number 35 Barbora Strycova claimed five of the last six games of the third set to beta last year’s French Open semifinalist Amanda Anisimova 7-6 (7-2) 2-6 6-4 after 2 hours and 33 minutes to advance to the second round. Strycova, who lost her only head-to-head match against Anisimova in Auckland last year, converted her second break point chance at deuce in the opening game. Anisimova broke back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3. Strycova earned her second break to take a 4-3 lead after unforced errors from Anisimova.
Anisimova broke serve at love to draw level to 5-5 and held serve without dropping a point to take a 6-5 lead. Strycova held serve at 30 to draw level to 6-6 before winning the tie-break 7-3.
Anisimova earned an early break in the first game with a backhand down the line. After an easy hold Anisimova broke twice in a row to draw level to a 5-0 lead. Strycova pulled back one of the three breaks in the sixth game but Anisimova served out the second match at 30 in the eighth game.
Anisimova went up a break twice in the third set to take a 4-3 lead, but Strycova broke back to draw level to 4-4. Strycova broke for the third time in the 10th game to win the third set 6-4 setting up a second round match against her doubles partner Hsieh Su-Wei or number 8 seed Petra Martic.
Sofia Kenin Out To Prove Australian Open Triumph Wasn’t A One-Off
The world No.7 is out to make a statement in Dubai this week.
Life has certainly changed for American rising star Sofia Kenin since the start of this year.
In the first week of January the Russian-born player was ranked 14th in the world and had only reached the fourth round of a grand slam tournament on one occasion. Then at the Australian Open she stunned the field by winning the title after defeating the more experienced Garbine Muguruza in the final. Not only did the milestone gift Kenin her maiden major title, it propelled her inside the world’s top 10. Becoming the youngest player from her country to do so since her idol Serena Williams back in 1999.
Now ranked seventh in the world, Kenin is looking to continue her momentum at this week’s Dubai Tennis Championships. Where she will be seeded fifth in the draw. It will be her first WTA event since Melbourne. Although she did feature in America’s Fed Cup play-off tie with Latvia earlier this month where she won two out of three matches played.
“I think it was better I played Fed Cup instead of taking a few days off,” Kenin told reporters in Dubai on Sunday. “I feel like I have more rhythm and I kept the momentum going. Hopefully, it’s going to help me here.”
The surge in expectation and interest in Kenin places her in uncharted territory. Young players in the past have struggled to live up to their grand slam achievements due to various reasons. Naomi Osaka has spoken openly about her struggles of coping in the media limelight. Meanwhile Jelena Ostapenko, who is now 22, has struggled to maintain her consistency on the tour since lifting the 2017 French Open crown.
“It’s a different pressure: you have more expectations from other people from the outside,” Kenin explained. “For me, I’m always hard on myself. Every tournament I go to, I obviously want to do well, so it’s nothing really different.
“The other expectations are a little bit different. I’ve got to somehow figure out how to manage it. We’ll see.”
At present the 21-year-old appears to be unfazed by the surge of interest in her as she vows to work even harder on the court. Kenin has in recent years been one of the tour’s most promising young players. A former world No.2 junior player, she won her first three WTA trophies last year. During 2019 she scored five wins over top 10 players such as Williams, Osaka and Ash Barty.
“It’s just more stuff to do. Everything is about the same. I’m still practicing, still working hard. Just going to keep grinding it and hopefully have more of those good results,” she said.
“It’s different, obviously. It’s a different pressure. You have more expectations from other people from the outside. For myself, I’m always hard on myself. Every tournament I go to, I obviously want to do well. So it’s nothing really different.”
In Dubai Kenin will start her campaign against Elena Rybakina later this week.
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