Caroline Garcia produced a brilliant display to knock out top seed Karolina Pliskova 6-1 7-6(2) at the 2020 US Open.
The Frenchwoman, 26, is one of the most talented players on the WTA tour. She can beat virtually anyone when she is at her best because she can hit winners from anywhere on the court.
Unquestionably, today was one of Garcia’s best days. She hit 30 winners and only dropped serve once as she outclassed one of the best players in the world.
“I’m very happy with my match today,” Garcia said in her on-court interview. “I had to play a good match because she’s a top player. Even though it wasn’t a great day for her, she gave everything.”
She continued, “I knew I had to go for it and believe and be very aggressive and that’s what I did very well, especially in the first set. The second set was tighter but I stayed calm and got over the line.”
Garcia makes spectacular start
Caroline Garcia made a fantastic start to the match. She held serve in style. Then she unfurled three superb forehand winners to earn an immediate break.
Unsurprisingly, the Frenchwoman could not sustain that level for long. She struggled a bit in her next service game but fought off a couple of break points and secured an important hold.
Even though she was already 3-0 in front, Garcia continued to attack. She unleashed two glorious winners – one backhand and one forehand – en route to an emphatic second break.
Over the course of the next three games, Pliskova worked her way into the contest. She held serve for the first time and pushed the Frenchwoman all the way in both of her service games. However, it was not enough to alter the outcome as Garcia wrapped up the set 6-1.
Pliskova fights back but it is not enough
Pliskova made the worst possible start to the second set. She made three double faults in the opening game to gift Garcia an early break.
The Frenchwoman then consolidated her advantage by holding serve. During the game, the Czech revealed her frustration. When Garcia dealt brilliantly with an excellent return and then hit a superb passing shot winner past her seconds later, Pliskova angrily slammed her racket into the court.
That release of emotion seemed to have a positive effect on the Czech. She looked sharper in her next two service games and hit a few high-class winners. Despite this improvement, the Frenchwoman forged a 4-2 lead.
At this stage, Pliskova knew she had to raise her game. She produced a superb three-point sequence to break Garcia and level the score at 4-4. She won the first point with a fantastic lob, the second with a huge forehand and the third with a powerful return.
Next, the Czech held to love to put pressure on Garcia. Then she earned two break points on the Frenchwoman’s serve.
However, just when it looked like the match was about to go into a decider, there was another plot twist. Pliskova wasted the first break point with a wild forehand. Then Garcia saved the second with a big serve and huge forehand.
Suddenly, the opportunity for the Czech to level the match had gone. And when the set went to a tie-break, the Frenchwoman rose to the occasion.
Garcia set the tone immediately by crunching a forehand winner. Then she won five points in a row from 2-2 to seize the tie-break. At the moment of victory, she let out a cry of delight. And the Frenchwoman will now play 28th seed Jennifer Brady in the third round.
Rybakina, Vondrousova and Riske crash out
Elena Rybakina, 21, is the 11th seed and one of the brightest prospects on the WTA tour. But she endured a chastening experience on court six as she was emphatically beaten 7-5 6-1 by experienced American Shelby Rogers. The victor’s reward will be last-32 clash with either Dayana Yastremska or Madison Brengle.
Marketa Vondrousova has had a tough time recently. She returned to tennis in January after six months out following surgery on her left wrist and struggled to find form. Then the tour was shut down for six months and she had to start again.
The Czech played in a few exhibition tournaments in June and July and managed to win a few matches. Then she returned to competitive action and lost in the first round at Palermo Ladies Open and the Western & Southern Open.
When you consider all of this, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the 12th seed lost to a dangerous player like Aliaksandra Sasnovich. The Belarussian stunned Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon and she is capable of high-class tennis. However, the thing that will disappoint Vondrousova most is the scoreline: 6-1 6-2. Sasnovich will face Yulia Putintseva in round three. The Kazakhstani beat Vera Lapko 6-3 6-3.
In another big shock, 13th seed Alison Riske was hammered 6-0 6-3 by World No.128 Ann Li. It is comfortably the most significant win of the young American’s career so far, and her reward will be a third-round meeting with three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber.
Unstoppable Aryna Sabalenka Storms To Abu Dhabi Title
Another clinical performance has secured the Belarusian her third consecutive title and a new career-high ranking position.
Aryna Sabalenka’s winning run shows no signs of stopping anytime soon after she powered her way to the Abu Dhabi title on Wednesday.
The fourth seed needed just over an hour to defeat Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova 6-2, 6-2, in what was a largely one-sided encounter in the Middle East. Sabalenka utilized her power to her advantage as she fired five aces and 18 winners past her opponent who was playing in her first WTA final at the age of 23. Overall she won almost twice as many points (63-37) than Kudermetova.
With both players holding their ground early on, Sabalenka started to dominate midway through the opening set with the help of a four-game winning streak. Leading 3-2 on serve, she broke her Russian rival twice in a row to clinch the 6-2 lead. Throughout the opener the world No.10 dropped just five points behind her serve.
It was a familiar pattern in the second frame with Sabalenka continuing to dismantle Kudermetova’s fragile serve. Overall, she broke six consecutive times in the final with four of those occurring in the second set alone. Easing to a game away from victory, she did experience a blunder after losing one of her breaks. However, there would be no chance of a Kudermetova comeback as Sabalenka closed out the match in the following game with her rival hitting a forehand error on match point.
“I’m really proud of the fact that I was fighting no matter what this week,” the new champion reflected on her performance. “Some matches I didn’t feel my serve and some matches I didn’t feel my backhand or forehand, but I just kept fighting and finding my shots, and this is what I’m really proud of. I’m really happy with this title.”
The win extends Sabalenka’s unbeaten run on the Tour to 15 wins. She has now won three titles in a row after ending 2020 triumphing in both Ostrava and Linz. As a result of her latest triumph, Sabalenka will rise to a ranking high of seventh in the world on Monday.
There is also a silver lining for underdog Kudermetova who defeated Elina Svitolina and Marta Kostyuk earlier in the tournament. Her run to the final will move her up the rankings to a career high of 36th. She has already scored five wins over top 10 opponents so far in her career.
“Aryna’s playing good. She played unbelievable today,” Kudermetova said. “She didn’t give me a lot of chances. She tried to keep every ball on the court, she tried to attack, and when she had her chances she went full power on the court. She also fights until the end—that’s why she’s a top player.”
Sabalenka’s surge on the Tour has sparked high expectations for her going into the Australian Open where she is hoping to break new ground in a Grand Slam.
“I was doing everything I could in each match from the beginning (in Abu Dhabi) and I’m happy to start the season with a title,” Sabalenka said. “I’m going to Australia, I’m confident with one thing, that I will do everything I can to win matches.”
Despite her success on the WTA Tour, she has only reached the fourth round of a major once at the 2018 US Open.
WTA Abu Dhabi Daily Preview: Aryna Sabalenka Vies for her Third Consecutive WTA Title
In a rare Wednesday final, she’ll face Veronika Kudermetova, who is playing in her first WTA championship singles match.
At the beginning of 2019, Aryna Sabalenka debuted inside the WTA top 10. That was coming off a 2018 season where in which Aryna accumulated 47 match wins, two titles, and reached the second week of a Major for the first time. From there, her progress stagnated a bit, as she spent the last two years ranked between No.9 and No.16. But now she’s on a 14-match winning streak, having claimed back-to-back titles to end 2020. With a win on Wednesday, she would reach a career-high ranking of No.7.
At the beginning of 2019, Veronika Kudermetova debuted inside the WTA top 100. The Russian steadily climbed the rankings that year, reaching the top 40 at the end of the season. Since the tour restart last August, the 23-year-old was a modest 7-6 before this event. But she dropped only one set this week on her way to her first WTA final, which included impressive wins over Elina Svitolina and Anett Kontaveit.
Aryna Sabalenka (4) vs. Veronika Kudermetova
Their only previous meeting does not provide much guidance as to what will happen on Wednesday. It took place six years ago at an ITF Challenger event in Antalya, which Sabalenka claimed in straight sets. Kudermetova will surely be nervous, as this is the biggest match of her career to date. And she’s facing an ultra-confident Sabalenka, who is on a 14-0 run. Yesterday, Aryna easily dispatched of an in-form Maria Sakkari, requiring only 57 minutes in a match where she struck 22 winners and only eight unforced errors. After yesterday’s win, Sabalenka told the press she’s focusing less on winning and more on the process of improving her game, and cited this as the reason for her current win streak. When Aryna is at her best, she can outhit just about anyone on tour. And we’ve seen before how difficult she is to defeat when she’s on a tear like this. I’m not betting against this version of Sabalenka winning her third straight title.
Other action on Wednesday:
In the doubles championship match, it’s 2020 St. Petersburg champions Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara (5) vs. Hayley Carter and Luisa Stefani, recent champions in Lexington. These two teams played in the third round of Roland Garros a few months ago, with the Japanese team prevailing in straight sets.
Full order of play is here.
Aryna Sabalenka Storms Into Abu Dhabi Final
The world No.10 has now won 14 matches in a row.
Fourth seed Aryna Sabalenka produced a dominant performance as she brushed aside Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-2, to reach the final of the Abu Dhabi Women’s Open.
Sabalenka, who is bidding to win her third WTA title in a row, took control of the semi-final encounter during the early stages with the help of her powerful shot-making. Best illustrated by her 22 winners compared to just eight unforced errors. A stark contrast to Sakkari’s tally of 12 and 21. Sabalenka was also supreme behind her first serve where she won 83% of the points.
“I like to play against her,” Sabalenka said of Sakkari. “I think I’m just putting pressure on her every match we’re playing, and it’s helped me win all those matches.”
A clinical start to the match saw the Belarusian race to a 5-1 lead before Sakkari managed to gain any momentum herself. The Greek retrieved one of the breaks to close the gap to 5-3 but it was too little too late as Sabalenka served the set out with relative ease.
The second frame promised to be more of a close encounter early on with Sakkari producing the tennis which shows why she is ranked just outside of the world’s top 20. However, the problem for her was that she struggled to find a way to cope with Sabalenka’s sheer power. Level at 2-2, the world No.10 broke once again as Sakkari let out a burst of frustration. From then on it was a foregone conclusion as Sabalenka won four games in a row to seal victory in just under an hour.
Since her loss at the French Open, the 22-year-old has won 14 matches in a row. At the end of 2020 she claimed titles in Ostrava and Linz. Meanwhile, this week Sabalenka has also previously beaten Polona Hercog, Ajla Tomljanovic, Ons Jabeur and Elena Rybakina.
“I think I’ve put my focus in the right space,” she said. “I’m focusing on the right things, which helps me not think about all of these wins, and so it helps me to keep winning. I need to keep concentrating on my game and my movement on the court, and trying to do everything I can in the moment.“
Should Sabalenka go on to win the Abu Dhabi title she will rise to a ranking high of seventh in the world. Awaiting her in the final will be either Veronika Kudermetova or Marta Kostyuka.
“I’m really looking forward to this final,” Sabalenka said.
“I’m just focusing on the right things. This helps me to, first of all, not think about all these wins, and secondly, to keep winning.”
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