Danielle Collins shocked Garbine Muguruza 7-5 2-6 6-4 in a pulsating late-night encounter at the 2020 French Open.
The American, 26, performed well in the first set, dropped her intensity in the second set and then pounced when the Spaniard faltered in the decider.
Collins will face Ons Jabeur in the last 16. The entertaining Tunisian earned an upset of her own when she beat Aryna Sabalenka 7-6(7) 2-6 6-3.
Collins wins first-set hitting contest
The first set was very close-fought. After Muguruza secured an early break, Collins broke back to level the score at 2-2. Then for the rest of the set, both players put on an exhibition of power-hitting.
They matched each other up to 5-5. Then the American held to love to give herself a chance to swing freely against the Spaniard’s serve. She seized it with some huge strikes to wrestle the set away from Muguruza.
Although the World No.15 lost the set, she had every reason to feel puzzled about the outcome. She had a better winners to unforced errors ratio than Collins (14-8 versus 15-16) and she won most of her service games more easily than the American.
In essence, the World No.57 won the opening set courtesy of her ability to save break points with her powerful serve. Because of this, Muguruza only managed to convert one of her eight chances.
Muguruza storms back
To her immense credit, Muguruza remained completely calm and never let the destination of the first set bother her.
The Spaniard stepped out and produced a near-flawless display in the second set. She cracked 11 winners and made just four unforced errors as she broke Collins in the first and fifth games and claimed the set 6-2 in just 33 minutes.
Collins pounces as Muguruza falls away
Muguruza maintained her momentum at the start of the decider. She broke Collins in the opening game for the third consecutive set. Then she staved off two break points during a battling hold that made it 2-0.
In game three, the Spaniard hit two excellent winners to go 0-30 up on the American’s serve. Then Collins made an unforced error on break point.
Muguruza offered the World No.57 a glimmer of hope when she made some sloppy errors to hand her a break. Buoyed by this, the American began to compete more effectively, and the following three tight games were all eventually won by the server to make it 4-3 to the Spaniard.
Then Muguruza faltered again. She served poorly and Collins broke her again to level the score. And the American followed it with a hold to love to pile pressure on the Spaniard.
Surprisingly, the 2016 champion crumbled. She hit two double faults during her worst service game of the match to hand victory to the American.
Kvitova survives but Ostapenko departs
Petra Kvitova fought back from 5-1 down in the opening set to beat Leylah Fernandez 7-5 6-3 and book her place in the fourth round at Roland Garros for the first time since 2015.
The Czech, 30, made a host of unforced errors in the first six games. Meanwhile, the teenage Canadian, who won the junior French Open title last year, started very brightly.
Unfortunately for the 18-year-old, Kvitova drew on all her experience to storm back and take the first set. Then she won the second set relatively easily. The Czech will now face Zhang Shuai in the last 16. The Chinese player beat French wildcard 7-6(2) 7-5.
By contrast, Jelena Ostapenko turned in the kind of performance viewers have become accustomed to during her slide down the rankings.
The Latvian, 23, made 10 double faults and 43 unforced errors during 82 painful minutes on court. Accordingly, she lost 6-4 6-3 to main draw debutant Paula Badosa, who played well throughout.
It was a remarkable win for the Spaniard, 22, who had already achieved her best result at a Grand Slam by reaching the third round. She will now take on another surprise package in the last 16 in the shape of Laura Siegemund. The German upset 13th seed Petra Martic 6-7(5) 6-3 6-0.
Kenin hurries through
Sofia Kenin charged into the last 16 of the French Open courtesy of a 6-2 6-0 victory over Irina Bara that took her just 72 minutes to achieve.
The American, 21, required three sets to win in rounds one and two. But she had no such trouble this time. She sealed a fourth meeting with Fiona Ferro, one of nine unseeded players in the last 16.
The Frenchwoman, 23, is enjoying comfortably the best year of her career so far. And she added another highlight when she overcame Patricia Maria Tig 7-6(7) 4-6 6-0.
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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