Top seed Ash Barty continued her quest for a maiden WTA title on home soil with a comprehensive win in the quarter-finasls of the Adelaide International.
The world No.1 dropped only six games during her 6-3, 6-3, win over Czech Republic’s Markéta Vondroušová. Who was playing in her first tournament since June due to a wrist injury. Barty managed to find a way to dismantle her opponent’s serve as the match progressed. Breaking once in the opening set and a further three times in the second. Extending her perfect head-to-head record against Vondroušová to 4-0.
“It was really nice to see Marketa back out here. She’s had an injury right after the French Open. She’s a really nice girl.” Barty said in tribute to her rival.
“I know our matches are always played in the right way. They are always tough.” She added.
The encounter was a rematch of last year’s French Open final. Where the 23-year-old Australian also prevailed in straight sets to clinch her maiden grand slam title. In their latest clash, Barty produced 20 winners alongside 19 unforced errors.
Despite the victory, the home favourite believes there is still room for improvement. Last week she lost her opening match at the Brisbane International, but has managed to turn her fortunes around in Adelaide. Prior to Vondrousova, she also drowned Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in three sets.
“I think it’s (my form) getting better and better.” She said. “There were times in the match where I wanted to be a bit tighter and clinical, but all in all it’s good to be back here generating opportunities for myself (on the court).”
Awaiting Barty in the last four will be Danielle Collins, who stunned the tour 12 months ago with a run to the Australian Open semifinals on her debut. The American was in ruthless form as she crushed fourth seed Belinda Bencic 6-3, 6-1. Recording her second win over a top 10 player this season after Elina Svitolina last week.
“Danielle is an exceptional ball striker. She has the ability to take the match out of your hands very quickly.” Barty previewed.
“She’s very aggressive off the first return and first strike so I have to put my running shoes on and might sure I bring some variety (to the match) tomorrow.”
There was disappointment for Simona Halep in her quarter-final match. The reigning Wimbledon champion failed to tame Belarussian star Aryan Sabalenka as she tumbled out of the draw 6-4, 6-2. Throughout the match Halep struggled with her own serve. Winning only 55% of points compared to Sabalenka’s tally of 59%.
“I knew she’ll fight until the end — it doesn’t matter what the score. When the score was 5-Love, I kind of expected that she’ll try to do everything she can to come back in the match,” wtatennis.com quoted Sabalenka as saying.
“I wasn’t really disappointed after that two games. That helped me to stay in the match and to not lose my mind. I’m happy with this win, especially against big fighters like Simona and the great players. [It] feels good.”
Halep now heads into the Australian Open playing just two competitive singles matches this month.
Meanwhile, conqueror Sabalenka has booked a showdown with Dayana Yastremska on Friday. Yastremska defeated Donna Vekic 6-4, 6-3.
Alexander Zverev Going In The Right Direction, Says Becker
The German tennis legend gives his verdict on Zverev’s current form following his grand slam breakthrough.
Former world No.1 Boris Becker believes Alexander Zverev’s recent run at the Australian Open was confirmation that he belongs at the top of men’s tennis.
Last month the 22-year-old achieved his best ever grand slam performance by reaching the semi-finals in Melbourne Park before losing to Dominic Thiem. At the tournament he scored wins over Andrey Rublev, who won two consecutive titles prior to the event, and former champion Stan Wawrinka. Zverev has been tipped as a future world No.1 in recent years and remains the only active player outside of the Big Four to have won three or more Masters trophies. Although he has previously struggled to shine in the biggest events of the sport.
“Alexander Zverev has made a great step forward with his first participation in a grand slam semi-final.” Becker told reporters in Berlin on Sunday. “Although he had difficult weeks before, for which there were reasons.”
At the start of the year it looked as if the world No.7 was in trouble. At the ATP Cup he lost all three of his matches played. A performance Becker blames on his off-season training. During November and December Zverev played a series of exhibition matches with Roger Federer across South America and China.
“He didn’t train enough during the winter break and came to Brisbane unprepared.” He said.
“We exchanged some serious words off the court and he took them to heart.’
“Of course I’m happy he had such success. This is also a confirmation for him that he belongs at the top of the world (in tennis).”
“But the competitors never sleep, that’s a never ending story. He has to confirm this again and again.”
So far in his career, Zverev has won 11 ATP titles and has been ranked as high as third in the world. His biggest triumph occurred towards the end of 2018 when he won the ATP Finals in London.
Reflecting on his Melbourne run last month, Zverev believes he managed to achieve the milestone thanks to a new approach he took to the event. Instead of looking at the whole tournament, he narrowed his focus to match-by-match.
“I went here in a different way. I went match by match. Didn’t look very far. I just knew I had opponents in front of me. I had to play well to beat them. That was it.” He said last month. “Whenever I won, I’d sit down in the locker room and somebody told me who I’m playing next.’
“I went step by step, match by match. Usually I [haven’t done] that in Grand Slams.”
Zverev will return to action next week at the Mexican Open in Acapulco. A tournament where he finished runner-up 12 months ago. Becker believes his compatriot could do some damage on the hard courts over the coming weeks with two prestigious North American events taking place next month in Indian Wells and Miami.
“The next tournaments are on hard courts in America. He will play there as well. There he can take a lot of points.” Becker concluded.
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.
New York Open Sunday Recap: Kyle Edmund Wins His Second Career ATP Title
And in an exclusive interview with UbiTennis, runner-up Andreas Seppi of Italy reveals he is pulling out of Delray Beach next week due to an injury suffered in the final.
In Sunday’s championship match, neither player faced a break point until 6-5 in the first set. In that twelfth game, Seppi struggled to make first serves, with Edmund hitting winners off both sides to break and secure the first set 7-5.
Kyle would break again to open the second, as Seppi played another loose game with neutral ball errors and a double fault. Up a set and a break, Edmund began to swing freely. Despite that, Seppi was able to survive a barrage of Edmund groundstroke winners to save multiple break points at 0-3. Edmund would then hold at love to make it 4-1, when Seppi left the court for a medical timeout. When Andreas returned, Edmund broke again by outlasting Seppi in the longest rally of the match. Kyle then closed out the match 7-5, 6-1 to win the second ATP title of his career.
When I spoke with Andreas after the match, he told me he felt something in his left hamstring as he was running for a drop shot in the fifth game of the second set. Seppi shared he will be skipping the Delray Beach event next week due to the injury, and will head home a week earlier than expected to rest and await the arrival of his first child.
“I just felt like I could really never put him under pressure today,” Seppi told me, when asked about how difficult it was to get into Edmund’s service games.
Edmund had a great serving day, striking 11 aces and facing no break points. He won 94% of first serve points in the match (31/33), against a player in Seppi who had won 36% of his return games this week prior to today’s final. I asked Kyle about how crucial his serving was in Sunday’s victory.
“When I got my first serve in I lost a couple points on it, so it really worked well for me. When you get that first strike in- I mean that big first serve in- when I can get on my forehand, that’s where I want to be, and I was winning a lot of points like that this week,” said Edmund.
Kyle also spoke about how important this title is to him.
“When you’re young and training, or playing tennis, these are the sort of things you imagine: wanting to win professional titles,” said Edmund.
In the doubles final, Dominic Inglot and Aisam-ul-Haq-Qureshi won their first title as a team, defeating Reilly Opelka and Steve Johnson 7-6(5), 7-6(6). Inglot and Qureshi initially served for the championship at 5-4 in the second, yet failed to close out the match. In the eventual second set tiebreak, Johnson narrowly missed a forehand down the line at 6-6. On the next point, an unreturned Inglot serve ended the American team’s quest for a title on home soil. Inglot and Qureshi were also finalists last week in Montpellier.
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