Serena Williams Closing In On First WTA Title Since 2017 In Auckland - UBITENNIS
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Serena Williams Closing In On First WTA Title Since 2017 In Auckland

The former world No.1 is just two wins away from the trophy in New Zealand.

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Serena Williams (image via twitter.com/wta)

Former world No.1 Serena Williams had to overcome both mother nature and her opponent at the ASB Classic to progress to the semifinals.

 

The top seed struggled at times with the windy conditions in the New Zealand capital against Germany’s Laura Siegemund en route to her 6-4, 6-3, victory. Throughout the 87-minute clash, Williams withstood some spirited play from across the court as she dropped serve only once. Coming back from a break down in the second set, Williams produced a total of 26 winners. Including six aces.

“I am definitely not super comfortable. I am trying. I would do a little bit better if I wasn’t hitting every shot in a conundra of wind,” Williams told reporters following the match.
“I got a little negative in the end. It was just so windy.
“It was good for me to fight … she stepped up and hit a lot of good winners. It was not easy. I had to step up and play a little better and get through it.”

Playing in her first tournament since the US Open last September, the 38-year-old has now scored wins over Camila Giorgi, Christina McHale and Siegemund. It is only the second time she has reached the last four of a WTA event outside of the grand slams since becoming a mother. Her first was last year at the Rogers Cup.

The wins places Williams on good footing ahead of the Australian Open, where she is bidding to win a record-equalling 24th grand slam title. A milestone currently held by Margaret Court.

“I definitely feel that [I’m starting to get into good shape for the Australian Open], and I feel like my match yesterday [against McHale] was great” Williams assessed. “It’s great that I went three sets, and it’s great that I ran so much. I came out today just overall feeling better and doing better.
“Especially the match fitness – I’m super fit, but match fitness is a little different, so I think all these matches are really helping.”

Prior to the Melbourne major, Williams’ first focus is on Auckland and her next opponent. Awaiting her in the semi-finals will be Amanda Anisimova. The third seed battled to a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, win over Eugenie Bouchard in her quarter-final match.

“It’s been my lifelong dream. Before the tournament I said in an interview that my biggest wish is to play her before she retires.” Anisimova commented about her upcoming clash with Williams.
“This is the happiest I’ve ever been.”

Wozniacki dumps reigning champion out

Soon-to-be-retired Caroline Wozniacki is another top name through to the semi-finals of the tournament. The fifth seed dropped just five games during her comprehensive 6-1, 6-4, win over 2019 champion Julia Goerges. During their clash Wozniacki hit nine winners 11 unforced errors, but capitalised on Goerges’ tally of 24 unforced errors.

Despite the victory, Wozniacki was far from happy about her latest performance. Admitting that there was areas of her game that could have been improved. It is the third time she has beaten Goerges in the quarter-finals of the Auckland tournament. She also did so in 2015 and 2017.

“It doesn’t look good for you if you don’t have a rhythm, that’s what I felt today and she played a very good match,” stuff.co.nz quoted Wozniacki as saying.
“I don’t think it was anything spectacular in general, she just made it very tough for me and I gave it a bit too easy to her here and there.
“Serving was very average today, for one of my biggest weapons. I think if going too many times over the second serve she tries to step in and puts a bit more pressure on me, than the other way around when I have a lot of first serves in.
“So I didn’t really do a good job here and there.
“I tried to fight as good as I can, make it tough for her, because I know she feels the pressure once I’m in there and I’m trying to take it away a little bit from her.”

The 29-year-old is set to retire from tennis following her campaign at the Australian Open. In Auckland, she will next play unseeded player Jessica Pegula. Pegula got through after Alize Cornet retired during their match.

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Karolina Pliskova Faces Race Against Time To Be Fit For French Open

The Czech has less than a week to recover from a thigh problem before the next Grand Slam gets underway.

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Karolina Pliskova (@InteBNLdItalia on Twitter)

World No.4 Karolina Pliskova says she is ‘hopeful’’ that she will be ready in time to play at the French Open after suffering a setback in her preparations on Monday.

 

The Czech tennis star was forced to retire during her clash with Simona Halep in the final of the Italian Open after falling behind 0-6, 1-2. During the match she wore tape on her left thigh and also has work done on her back during a medical time out. However, Pliskova said afterwards that the issue was her thigh and playing a series of matches within a short period.

“I think it’s a combination of just playing every day and tough matches. Of course I played some two-set matches, but it’s still clay, which I was coming to play on quite fast from the hard court’s. There is a lot of sliding and running,” said Pliskova.

Due to the Tour being stopped by the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year players are playing a more compact schedule with two Grand Slams taking place within a month. Only 14 days separates the last day of the US Open from the first day of the French Open.

Despite her injury, 28-year-old Pliskova is optimistic that she will be able to play at Roland Garros with her first match possibly taking place on Sunday. She is a former semi-finalist in Paris back in 2017 but has lost in the third round two consecutive times since then. Overall her main draw record at the tournament stands at 11 wins against eight losses.

I hope to be ready, there is a week so I think that’s plenty of time,” she said.
“I know I might play on Sunday in Paris but there are a couple days which I hope is gonna help a lot.
“I really want to be100% ready because if I want to go far in a Grand Slam. It’s going to be, like, two weeks of tennis, which I’m not sure today I can do. I just need to see what the doctors say,”

One of Pliskova’s biggest rivals at the major will be former champion Halep who has won back-to-back clay court titles within the past month. The Romanian is now in a 14-match winning streak and has reached the quarter-finals of better at every single tournament she has played in so far this year. The Czech believes her rival is the key contenders to lift the French Open trophy this year.

Now she’s won two tournaments on clay, so I think she’s confident enough and she’s done well there,” Pliskova said. “She’s going to be dangerous.
“And she had big success in Paris, so I think she’s going to be one of my favourites to go for the title.”

Pliskova will be the second seed at Roland Garros.

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World No.1 Ash Barty Impresses At Golf Club Championship

The 24-year-old is still winning trophies but this time it isn’t in tennis.

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After deciding to pull the plug on her season due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic Ash Barty has once again illustrated that tennis is not the only sport she can excel in.

 

The world No.1 has won the Brookwater Golf Club women’s champion on Sunday with a seven and five triumph in the match play final. Following in the footsteps of her father Robert who once represented Australia as an amateur golfer. Although Barty is playing down the significance of her latest sporting win.

It’s not a big deal,” she told the Australian Associated Press.

It is not the first time Barty’s golfing abilities have impressed. During a promotional event last December ahead of the Presidents Cup she earned praise from Tiger Woods after hitting wedge to a makeshift green on the Yarra River. After that shot Woods commented ‘she’s got a great swing, are you kidding me?’ Barty’s boyfriend, Garry Kissick, is also a PGA trainee professional at Brookwater. The place where they first met back in 2016.

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Louis Dobbelaar, who won the men’s competition at Brookwater, believes Barty has what it takes to become a professional in the sport should she wish. The 24-year-old is also an avid cricketer and played professionally between 2014-2015 during a break from tennis. Playing in the Women’s Big Bash League Barty enjoyed stints with teams Brisbane Heat and Queensland Fire.

She’s got all the tools if she wants to pursue it. If she put her mind to it, I’m sure she could,” he told the AAP.
“I’ve seen quite a lot of golfers come from different sports and she’s the one that stands out the most – by far actually. Her ball-striking’s really good. She just gets that naturally from tennis, the hand-eye stuff.”

Barty hasn’t played a match on the WTA Tour since the Qatar Open back in February where she reached the semi-finals. She will not be defending her title at the French Open next week due to concerns related to the pandemic. Besides worldwide travel, she has been unable to train with her coach due to local restrictions.

The Australian has made more than $17.5M in prize money so far in her career.

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Maturing Simona Halep Closing In On Rome Milestone

The Romanian is hoping that it will be third time lucky at the Foro Italico this year.

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Simona Halep 2 (@InteBNLdItalia on Twitter)

Top seed Simona Halep survived a roller-coaster encounter against Spain’s Garbine Muguruza to progress to the final of the Italian Open on Sunday.

 

The world No.2 required more than two hours to disposed of Muguruza 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, in what was the seventh meeting between the two Grand Slam champions on the WTA Tour. It was a far from straightforward win for the Romanian who lost her serve three consecutive times during the second set. However, she managed to bounce back in the decider with the help of a four-game winning streak as she edged towards victory despite facing some late resistance.

Against Muguruza she’s a very, very difficult player and a good player. It’s always good vibe and a good feeling when I win against her,” Halep told reporters after.
“I know I had so many chances to maybe finish the match a little bit faster and easier, but she doesn’t give up.’
“Credit to her that she fought till the end. I am happy that I was a little bit stronger in the end and I could be more aggressive when I needed to.”

There is still room for improvement for Halep who won only 48% of her service points and converted nine out of her 18 break point opportunities. She also hit 21 winners alongside 22 unforced errors.

The latest victory was the first singles match at this year’s Italian Open to take place in front of fans. Due to a recent decision by the local government, a maximum of 1000 spectators has been allowed to attend the Foro Italico on its last two days. A move that has been hailed by Halep even though she admits that it was her opponent who was getting more cheers.

“It’s been nice to see people in the crowd, even if they were all not supporting me today. They were with Muguruza, but I understand,” she said.
“But I was happy to see them and I felt the energy.”

Halep now moves into her third Rome final where she will have a shot of achieving a unique milestone of winning three major clay events on the WTA Tour along with the French Open and Madrid Open. Something only Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova have achieved.

Standing in her way of the title will be the winner of the all-Czech clash between Karolina Pliskova or Markéta Vondroušová. Somewhat of a relief for Halep who lost her two previous finals in Rome to Elina Svitolina.

“I’m not playing her so I have a plus,” she joked.
“It’s a final, so I have to manage it a little bit better than previous years. It’s gonna be a tough match.’
“Now I’m more mature. So let’s hope that I can be better tomorrow and to win it.”

Halep will be playing in her 18th WTA final on the clay and is currently on a 13-match winning streak.

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