Serena Williams Powers Through To Ninth Australian Open Semi With Win Over Halep - UBITENNIS
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Serena Williams Powers Through To Ninth Australian Open Semi With Win Over Halep

The 39-year-old experienced some difficulty behind her serve in the second set during what was an otherwise clinical win in Melbourne Park.

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Serena Williams is just two wins away from equalling Margaret Court’s all-time Grand Slam trophy record after disposing of second seed Simona Halep in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open.

 

The world No.11 overcame some troublesome serving in the second set to prevail 6-3, 6-3, over Halep in what was their first meeting in almost two years. It was Williams’ power that proved decisive as she fired a total of four aces and 24 winners throughout the 82-minute encounter. Although there is room for improvement for the former champion who also dropped her serve three times and leaked 33 unforced errors.

“I definitely think this is the best match I have played in the tournament, for sure,” Williams said during her on-court interview. “I had to going up against the number two in the world so I knew that I had to do better.’
“That’s what I did and I am excited.”

The early anticipated showdown between the two Grand Slam winners was a chance for Williams to avenge her comprehensive loss to Halep in their previous meeting at the 2019 Wimbledon Championships. This time round, the 39-year-old produced a mixture of power and clever angle shots to dictate proceedings throughout the majority of the first set.

Trading breaks of serve early on in the match, Williams started to exert her dominance during in the sixth game after back-to-back Halep errors enabled her to break once again for a 4-2 lead. Although this time she was able to back it up with ease. The intensity of Williams’ tennis was one that visibly frustrated her opponent who appeared to be bemused by some calls being made by the automatic Hawk-eye Live system. Racing towards a 6-3 lead, Williams closed it out in clinical fashion with a love service game.

In what is her 20th main draw appearance in Melbourne, only twice has Williams lost a match at the tournament after winning the first set. Although trying to close the match out was problematic as the American’s unforced error count rapidly increased during the second frame. Twice Wiliams was forced to battle back from a break down against a determined Halep who refused to give up. However, once again her clever use of her angle shots saved her as she weathered the storm to move to a 5-3 lead. Closing in on a record 92nd victory in the tournament, she prevailed on her second match point by hitting another forehand winner.

“I realised that I was making a lot of unforced errors in those games that I lost and I knew I had an opportunity to play better. So I just stayed in there (the match), keep going and that is what I did,” she commented on her comeback.
“I can make leaps and improvements really fast. I know throughout my career speed has been the thing which is super good in my game,” she later added.

Awaiting Williams in the semi-finals will be the formidable Naomi Osaka who is also yet to drop a set in the tournament. The Japanese player defeated Hsieh Su-Wei 6-2, 6-2, earlier in the day.

She’s Serena, someone that I feel really intimidated when I see her on the other side of the court,” Osaka said during her press conference.

Whilst Osaka says she is intimidated by her upcoming opponent, Williams says she is inspired by hers.

“She’s such a strong person on the court and an inspirational person off the court, which I think is really cool. It’s so good to see someone who is inspiring in both things when they do their job or not,” she said of Osaka.
“I feel like this is such a good opportunity for me to do my best in the first grand slam of the year.”

As a result of her latest win Williams has now reached 40 Grand Slam semi-finals in her career.

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Matteo Berrettini reaches his second Masters 1000 semifinal

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Matteo Berrettini has reached the second Masters 1000 semifinal of his career with his 5-7 6-3 6-0 win over Cristian Garin at the Madrid Mutua Open at the Caja Magica. 

 

Berrettini fought back from 3-6 1-3 down by winning 11 consecutive games to take the win in the third set. 

Garin earned an immediate break in the first game, but Berrettini broke straight back to draw level to 1-1. Garin won seven consecutive points from 5-5 15-30 to claim the first set 7-5 with a break in the 11th game thanks to a backhand passing shot. 

Garin went up a 3-1 lead in the second set with a break in the third game. Berrettini broke back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3 with a forehand winner on the break point. 

Berrettini earned his second break to take a 5-3 lead, when Garin made three unforced errors. The Italian player served out 6-3 at love with an ace.

Berrettini broke serve in the first game and saved two break-back points in the second game to hold serve for 2-0. Berrettini earned his double break in the third game, as Garin made two consecutive unforced errors at 40-40. Berrettini held serve at duece to race out to a 4-0 lead. Garin missed four game points in the fifth game before dropping serve to trail 0-5, when he committed a double fault and an unforced error. Berrettini served out the third set at love with his 14th ace after 2 hours and 6 minutes to secure his spot in his first Masters 1000 semifinal since Shanghai 2019.    

“I am really proud that I came back from not an easy place mentally after my injury. I really worked hard. There were days. There were days where I wasn’t really feeling into practice because I felt like kind of there was a lot of work to be done. Sometimes I was feeling kind of unlucky that I got injured again. It was just tough, but I came back stronger in Belgrade. For here, I proved to myself that I am strong inside”, said Berrettini. 

Berrettini will take on Casper Ruud in the semifinals. They will battle for a spot into their first Masters 1000 final. Ruud beat Berrettini in the quarter final in Rome last year. 

“I think he is a great player, especially on clay. He has been playing really good, really solid so far this season. We always had tough matches. Last year in Rome it was a really tough match. Still if I think about it, it hurts. I am really looking forward to get my revenge, not in a bad way, but just in a way that’s in a sport way”, said Berrettini. 

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Casper Ruud reaches his third consecutive clay Masters 1000 semifinal

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Casper Ruud beat Alexander Bublik 7-5 6-1 to reach his third career Masters 1000 semifinal at the Madrid Mutua Open after advancing to this stage in Rome in 2020 and Monte-Carlo in 2021. 

 

Ruud backed up his win in the third round against Stefanos Tsitsipas on Thursday with a straight set win over Bublik. Ruud won 8 of the final nine games and hit 19 winners to seal the win in 69 minutes. Ruud hit nine forehand winners to just two unforced forehand errors.

Ruud broke Bublik in the 11th game on his fourth set point to take the first set 7-5, as Bublik was serving at 5-6. The Norwegian player broke twice in the fourth and sixth games to claim the second set 6-1 in 69 minutes. 

The son of former Norwegian player Christian Ruud has not broken yet and faced his first break point this week against Bublik. 

Ruud becomes the seventh unseeded ATP player to advance to the semifinals in Madrid. He will face either Matteo Berrettini or Christian Garin in the semifinal. 

 “It’s a great feeling. It’s my third Masters 1000 semifinal and my third in a row on clay. I am just playing the tennis of my life for the moment and I am enjoying it. I have just had an unbelievable motivation to play the European clay swing and when we didn’t get to play it last year, I was very sad. I think I have just double motivation compared to last year”, said Ruud.

Ruud will move up to at least world number 16 in the ATP Ranking next week. 

“I did a lot of good work when we had the corona break last year. I trained really hard on the weekdays and took the weekends off. I think that worked well. When we started well, I felt good again. I think I am a much better player mentally, physically and playing-wise as well. I am hitting the ball and playing the heavy clay-court game that I like to play”, said Ruud. 

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Aryna Sabalenka beats Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova to set up a re-match of the Stuttgart final against Ashleigh Barty

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Aryna Sabalenka has reached her third final of the season with a 6-2 6-3 win over six-time Grand Slam quarter finalist Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova in the semifinal of the Madrid Mutua Open. 

 

Sabalenka earned her first break to take a 3-1 lead. She hi a series of forehands in the final game to close out the first set 6-2. 

Sabalenka raced out to a 4-0 lead with a double break. Pavlyuchenkova earned her first break points, but Sabalenka held serve for 5-0. Pavlyuchenkova pulled one break in the seventh game and held serve to claw her way back to 3-5. Sabalenka hit two backhands to earn her first match point and sealed the win with her fourth ace .  

Sabalenka has extended her win-loss record to 23-6 (including 9-1) this year. She has won the opening tournament of the season and lost the Stuttgart Porsche Grand Prix final to Ashleigh Barty. 

Barty and Sabalenka will meet again in the Madrid Mutua Open this week in the re-match of the Stuttgart final

The Belarusian player has not dropped a set this week. The Belarusian player won 73 % of her second service points and converted four of her break points against Pavlyuchenkova, who had won their only previous head-to-head match in Toronto in 2019. 

“I think my game has improved a lot on the clay court. For sure, it’s given me some confidence, but there are still so many things to work on. I am just really with my level here in Madrid. I think from the side it looks like everything is going my way. Some games I did not feel my serve. Some games something wasn’t working. It’s always part of the process, but I am really happy that from the side, it looks like everything is going my way”,said Sabalenka. 

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