Simona Halep Destroys Kontaveit With Sublime Display To Clinch Semi-Final Spot - UBITENNIS
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Simona Halep Destroys Kontaveit With Sublime Display To Clinch Semi-Final Spot

Simona Halep moved a step closer to a third Grand Slam title with a dominant win over 28th seed Anett Kontaveit.

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Simona Halep (@AustralianOpen on Twitter)

Simona Halep put on a masterclass on Rod Laver Arena as she dismantled Anett Kontaveit 6-1 6-1 to seal her place in the semi-finals of the 2020 Australian Open.

 

The Romanian, 28, looks to be in exceptional form as she chases her third Grand Slam title. She is yet to drop a set at the event and, naturally, she is hoping to continue in the same vein.

“I’m really happy that I can play my best tennis,” Halep said in her on-court interview. “For the first time in my life, I did my off-season away from home so I could focus on what I had to do. I had no days off and I’ve started the year very well. I’m feeling much stronger than I did before.”

The Romanian also paid tribute to her coach Darren Cahill. “He’s been very important since I met him four or five years ago,” she said. “We’ve worked hard on my attitude and my game and today I’m a better person and a better player, so I really want to thank him for the help he gave me. He’s a great person and he understands me so that makes the job easier.”

Halep’s game plan against big hitters like the Estonian is very simple, but much harder to execute. She makes them hit as many shots as possible (preferably from difficult positions) because this increases the chances that they will make errors. To do this, the Romanian needs speed, flexibility immense skill and variety of shot, and the ability to make smart decisions during rallies.

Halep has all these things in her arsenal. At her best, she combines them to make life extremely difficult for her opponents. If they play well, she beats them narrowly. If they play poorly, she thrashes them.

Halep applies pressure early on

In the Romanian’s quarter-final against Kontaveit, she looked focused from first minute to last. And she cranked up the pressure in just the third game.

During it, the Estonian hit some high-quality winners. However, she also made several errors to repeatedly return the score to deuce. Eventually, she cracked, and made an error on break point.

Two games later, the World No.31 saved three break points to recover from 0-40 down. Unfortunately for her, Halep was not discouraged. She outlasted Kontaveit in a 14-shot rally to seize the fourth break point of the game and extend her lead to 4-1.

Some players would relax a little at this stage. Some days, Halep might even do that. But not this time. She relentlessly closed out the first set (with a hold and another break) without giving the Estonian an inch.

Halep reaches new heights

Simona Halep (@rolandgarros on Twitter)

Extraordinarily, the standard of play from the two-time Grand Slam champion seemed to increase at the start of the second set. She came up with some brilliant shots as she raced into a 3-0 lead to extend her run of games to nine.

At that point, Kontaveit looked disconsolate. She made two wayward errors as she dropped her serve for the fifth time in a row.

The Estonian tried her best to make something happen in the next game. During one remarkable point, she hammered the ball as hard as she could to try and get it past her opponent. Maddeningly for Kontaveit’s supporters, Halep retrieved it every time and eventually won the point thanks to a let-cord. Minutes later, the score was 5-0.

The World No.31 finally stopped the rot after losing 11 games on the spin. But it hardly mattered. The Romanian held her serve easily to seal one of the most convincing wins of her whole career.

Halep recalls 2018 Final

In the last four, Halep will face either Garbine Muguruza or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. If she wins that encounter, she will contest an Australian Open final for the second time in three years.

“(My previous final) wasn’t negative at all,” the Romanian said in her on-court interview. “It hurt a lot because I lost 6-4 in the third. I had 4-3 and serve but I couldn’t finish the match. Maybe I was too nervous at that moment. But now I have more experience. That match helped me to win the two Grand Slams that I have already. Maybe I’m on my way to the third one. But it’s very far still, so I just want to focus on my next match.”

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Roland Garros Daily Preview: Iga Swiatek Goes for her 30th Consecutive Win

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Iga Swiatek practicing in Paris (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

Over the past three months, Iga Swiatek has dominated the WTA tour, more so than any player since Serena Williams.  Swiatek has won 29 straight matches, and 5 straight titles.  In the second round, she goes for her 30th consecutive win over American Alison Riske.

 

Thursday also sees other top seeds in second round action, such as Daniil Medvedev, Paula Badosa, and Stefanos Tsitsipas.  And the women finally receive the spotlight of the night session, with two players who have a flair for the dramatic: France’s Alize Cornet, and 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s five most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Thursday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.


Daniil Medvedev (2) vs. Laslo Djere – 12:00pm on Court Philippe Chatrier

Medvedev missed nearly two months of action due to hernia surgery, playing only one match on clay ahead of this event, yet still easily advanced on Tuesday.  But in the second round, he faces a player who had some nice results on clay this season.  Djere reached the semis of Marrakech, and thoroughly tested fellow Serbian Novak Djokovic in Belgrade.  He’s also 1-0 against Medvedev, though that victory came five years ago, and with Medvedev retiring mid-match, back when he was ranked 184th in the world.  Now the world No.2, Danill should be able to prevail over Djere despite his recent inactivity, and his aversion to this surface.


Frances Tiafoe (24) vs. David Goffin – Second on Court Simonne Mathieu

Following six first round losses at this event, which included four five-setters, Tiafoe finally earned his first French Open victory on Tuesday over Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi.  Goffin has a much richer history at this tournament.  It was 10 years ago when the Belgian made his Major breakthrough, advancing to the fourth round in his first main draw appearance at a Slam.  Then in 2016, he was a quarterfinalist in Paris.  Goffin missed much of 2021 due to injury, but has rebounded nicely in 2022, winning a clay court title last month in Marrakech.  Tiafoe reached a clay final in Estoril, though he arrived in Paris on a three-match losing streak.  David leads their head-to-head 3-1, and considering his far-better results at Roland Garros, he is a considerable favorite to make that 4-1 after what should be an entertaining battle.


Madison Keys (22) vs. Caroline Garcia – Second on Court Philippe Chatrier

After a dismal 2021 season, one in which Keys openly admits she lost the joy in her game, Madison had an excellent start this year.  In January alone, the American won more matches than in all of 2021.  Yet since reaching the quarterfinals of Indian Wells, Keys has again struggled, and is just 2-3 on clay.  Garcia was a top five player less than four years ago, but over the last few seasons, has lost as many matches as she’s won.  Prior to this event, Caroline missed the entire clay court season due to a foot injury.  Keys is 2-1 against Garcia, and claimed their last two encounters in straight sets.  Keys often peaks at the Majors: since 2015, she’s reached the second week of Slams 16 times.  And with the pressure of the Parisian crowd weighing on an unconfident Garcia, I like Madison’s chances to be victorious.


Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Alison Riske – Third on Court Suzanne Lenglen

Swiatek has not only been winning a lot, she’s been winning extremely efficiently.  Out of her 29 straight wins, 23 have been in straight sets.  On Monday, she crushed Lesia Tsurenko 6-2, 6-0.  And she is 2-0 against Riske, with both wins coming last season on clay.  Riske was a Wimbledon quarterfinalist in 2019, when she upset then-world No.1 Ash Barty.  But before this week, she was 1-7 lifetime at Roland Garros, and between 2019 and 2021, went 0-8 on clay.  So another upset over a world No.1 on Thursday would be shocking.  This should be another straightforward victory for Iga.


Jelena Ostapenko (13) vs. Alize Cornet – Not Before 8:45pm on Court Philippe Chatrier

Since her shocking run to the championship five years ago, Ostapenko is a meager 3-4 at this event, with three first-round losses.  But she advanced easily on Tuesday, as did Cornet.  And Alize coming off a huge milestone at the last Major, where she achieved her first Slam quarterfinal.  This is Cornet’s 18th consecutive appearance at the French Open, where she owns a 20-17 record.  She is vying to reach the third round for the first time in five years.  They have split four previous meetings, all of which occurred on hard courts.  Both players arrived in Paris on significant losing streaks: Cornet had lost four in a row, while Ostapenko had list five.  But Alize can often thrive on big stages, and will surely relish the chance to play in the night session on Chatrier.  An inspired effort from the Frenchwoman, and a boisterous French crowd, could easily get under the thin skin of Jelena.  I would not be surprised to see Cornet prevail under the lights.


Other Notable Matches on Thursday:

Paula Badosa (3) vs. Kaja Juvan – Badosa easily won her opening round 6-2, 6-0.  Juvan is a 21-year-old from Slovenia who was a finalist just last week on clay in Strasbourg. 

Steve Johnson vs. Gilles Simon (WC) – Johnson defeated Jiri Vesely on Tuesday in four sets, while Simon upset Pablo Carreno Busta in a late-night, five-set thriller.  The Frenchman took their only career meeting eight years ago in Tokyo.

Simona Halep (19) vs. Qinwen Zheng – Halep needed three sets to get past a qualifier on Tuesday.  Qinwen dropped only four games in her first round contest.  Earlier this season in the semifinals of an Australian Open tune-up event, Halep defeated Qinwen 6-3, 6-2.

Danielle Collins (9) vs. Shelby Rogers – The Australian Open runner-up is just 3-2 on clay this year, though Rogers was 0-3 on this surface coming into this event.  They have split two previous meetings, both of which occurred last August.

Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) vs. Zdenek Kolar (Q) – Tsitsipas came back from two sets down to outlast Lorenzo Musetti on Tuesday.  Kolar is a 25-year-old from the Czech Republic who defeated France’s Lucas Pouille in his first main draw match at a Major, after failing to qualify at 16 previous Slams. 


Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Roland Garros Daily Preview: A Busy Day of Second Round Action on Wednesday

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A look at Court Philippe Chatrier (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

Wednesday’s schedule is overflowing with big names and compelling matchups.  Four of the top six men’s seeds will play their second round matches, and all face intriguing opposition.  Defending champion Novak Djokovic plays Alex Molcan, who is coached by Novak’s longtime coach, Marian Vajda.  13-time champ Rafael Nadal faces France’s Corentin Moutet, who took out 2015 champ Stan Wawrinka in the first round.  Spain’s new rising star, Carlos Alcaraz, takes on fellow Spaniard and accomplished clay courter Albert Ramos-Vinolas.  And third-seeded Sascha Zverev goes against Sebastian Baez, who won a clay court title last month in Estoril.

 

However, the day’s most competitive ATP matches may not involve those top names.  Second round clashes Sebastian Korda and Richard Gasquet, as well as between Grigor Dimitrov and Borna Coric, could prove to be two the day’s best men’s singles contests.

Women’s second round action on Wednesday features a blockbuster matchup, as 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu meets Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic.  In a battle of two Major semifinalists from 2021, Maria Sakkari takes on Karolina Muchova.  And five other Major singles champions will take the court (Kerber, Kvitova, Azarenka, Stephens, Raducanu).

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s five most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Wednesday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.


Sascha Zverev (3) vs. Sebastian Baez – Second on Court Philippe Chatrier

This is a dangerous draw for Zverev, as Baez is one the 2022’s fastest-rising players.  The 21-year-old from Argentina started the year ranked 99th, but is now 36th, having accumulated 28 match wins at all levels, and claiming a clay court title last month in Estoril.  He was also a finalist earlier this year on clay in Santiago.  These players met just two weeks ago in Rome, with Zverev prevailing in two tight sets.   I expect another tight affair on Wednesday, especially since Sascha has a history of getting involved in five-setters at Roland Garros.  In the last four years here, he’s played eight of them.  However, it’s worth noting his record in those matches is 7-1.  Zverev’s fire power should enable him to get past the up-and-coming Argentine.


Maria Sakkari (4) vs. Karolina Muchova – Second on Court Suzanne Lenglen

Their only previous encounter was a doozy.  Last year on clay in Madrid, Muchova dominated the first set 6-0, Sakkari took the second in an extended tiebreak, but Karolina eventually prevailed 7-5 in the third.  That’s one of many painful losses Maria suffered last season, with the most painful coming in the semifinals of this event a year ago, when she went down in defeat despite holding a match point over eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova.  Sakkari has persevered extremely well, and started off 2022 16-4, though she’s just 4-3 on clay this season.  However, Muchova is only 6-2 the entire year, as an abdominal injury kept her off the court.  The more in-form Sakkari should be favored to avenge her loss to Muchova from a year ago.


Belinda Bencic (14) vs. Bianca Andreescu – Third on Court Philippe Chatrier

This is a rematch from the semifinals of the 2019 US Open semifinals, when Andreescu was victorious after two extremely close sets on her way to her maiden Major title.  That semifinal remains Belinda’s best performance at a Slam.  And the French Open has easily been her worst Major, where she is 6-5 lifetime, and never advanced beyond the third round.  But Bencic is having a strong clay court season, with a 10-2 record, and a title in Charleston.  Andreescu has missed a lot of time over the last few years, including the first three months of 2022.  Yet she’s a decent 7-3 on the year, with her only three losses coming to top 15 players.  And on a big stage such as Court Philippe Chatrier, Andreescu usually brings her best tennis.  I give the Canadian the slight edge to grit out the upset over Bencic after a significant battle.


Sebastian Korda (27) vs. Richard Gasquet – Fourth on Court Suzanne Lenglen

Both players completed their first round matches on Tuesday due to rain, leaving them no day of rest, though they both won in straights sets and should feel rather fresh.  Korda eliminated Australia’s John Millman, while Gasquet dismissed South Africa’s Lloyd Harris.  It was this event two years ago where Sebi made his Major breakthrough, reaching the fourth round in just his second main draw appearance at a Slam.  The 21-year-old American is the only player to earn a victory over Carlos Alcaraz this season on clay, and also achieved a clay court semifinal in Estoril.  Gasquet spent much of this month playing Challenger events, though he did reach a tour-level semi of his own just last week in Geneva.  Clay is not Richard’s strongest surface, but he was a quarterfinalist here in 2016.  He’ll certainly be motivated by the inspiring efforts of his fellow countrymen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles from Tuesday.  And with this match scheduled late in the day, he’ll benefit from a rowdy French crowd behind him.  However, Korda’s more reliable groundstrokes should allow him to get past the Frenchman, with an Alcaraz rematch perhaps awaiting him in the third round.


Grigor Dimitrov (18) vs. Borna Coric – Fourth on Court 14

Dimitrov is a meek 13-11 lifetime at Roland Garros, but he is a solid 9-4 on clay this season, and was a semifinalist in Monte Carlo.  Coric is trying to rediscover his form after missing a full year of action due to shoulder surgery.  He’s just 2-6 at all levels since returning, and was on a five-match losing streak coming into this event before earning a first-round win over Carlos Taberner.  Borna has a clay court title on his resume, and has previously fought his way to victories at Majors in matches he had no business winning.  The 2020 US Open comes to mind, when Coric came back from seemingly sure defeat against Stefanos Tsitsipas, saving six match points along the way.  I would not be surprised if he pushes Dimitrov on Wednesday.  Yet Grigor seemed perfectly comfortable in his opening round, dropping only three games, and is the favorite in this match as well.


Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:

Angelique Kerber (21) vs. Elisa Jacquemot (WC) – Kerber survived the first round of this event for only the second time in seven years, and did so in thrilling fashion.  Angie defeated Magdalena Frech in an over three-hour affair, and was cheered on vociferously by the Parisian crowd.  On Wednesday, she plays France’s Jacquemot, a 19-year-old who earned her first Major win on Monday.

Amanda Anisimova (27) vs. Donna Vekic (Q) – Anisimova took out Naomi Osaka in the opening round.  Vekic is a former top 20 player who has battled injury in recent years.  Two years ago on clay in Rome, Amanda overcame Donna in two tiebreak sets.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Alex Molcan – Djokovic’s last loss in the second round of a Major was at the 2017 Australian Open, at the hands of Denis Istomin.  Molcan is a 24-year-old from Slovakia who reached finals at two 250-level clay events this season.  Last year on clay in Belgrade, Novak defeated Alex in straights.

Carlos Alcaraz (6) vs. Albert Ramos-Vinolas – Alcaraz is now 29-3 on the year, and is currently on an 11-match win streak.  Ramos-Vinolas was a quarterfinalist here in 2016, and has won four clay court titles in his career, including this February in Cordoba.  Alcaraz has claimed both of their previous meetings.

Rafael Nadal (5) vs. Corentin Moutet (WC) – Despite questions regarding the status of his chronically-injured foot, Nadal prevailed easily on Monday, dropping only six games.  Moutet beat Stan Wawrinka in four sets the same day. 


Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Madrid Open champion Ons Jabeur stunned in Paris

Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur has crashed out of the French Open in the first major shock of the tournament

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Ons Jabeur - Roland Garros 2022 (photo Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Having become the first African woman to win a Masters 1000 in Madrid, Jabeur was well fancied to rival Iga Świątek for the title.

 

The two also met in the final of the Italian Open, but a meeting this fortnight was cruelly dashed by Poland’s Magda Linette, who came back from a set down to win 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5.

After the two-hour, 28-minute epic, Jabeur had this to say.

Obviously I was expecting better but we say maybe something happens bad because there is something good happening in the future.

“Hopefully I will play the grass season at Wimbledon, but I don’t know. It’s a time to reflect and see what happens next.”

Another big shock occurred as 19-year-old Dianne Parry sent her home support into ecstasy as she shocked second seed defending champion Barbora Krejčíková.

The Czech going down 1-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Estonian veteran Kaia Kanepi took another major scalp after her Australian Open exploits as she downed 10th seed Garbiñe Muguruza 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

American sensation Amanda Anisimova comfortably beat an out of sorts Naomi Osaka 7-5, 6-4.

Meanwhile, the tournament favourite Świątek remains on track to win her second Grand Slam title after crushing Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko.

“I just want to keep going. I am aware that one day my streak will stop,” Świątek said.

“I am 100 per cent focused on my tennis, not on stats or not on some numbers.

I focus on my game and being kind of in a bubble. That’s what I’ve been doing the past weeks and I’m going to continue doing that here.”

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