Miami Open Daily Preview: Ash Barty and Bianca Andreescu Play for the Women’s Championship - UBITENNIS
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Miami Open Daily Preview: Ash Barty and Bianca Andreescu Play for the Women’s Championship

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Bianca Andreescu will appear in her first final since her 2019 US Open triumph (miamiopen.com)

In 2019, both Barty and Andreescu achieved major breakthroughs (literally), winning their first Slam titles, as well as several other big tournaments.  But both would subsequently miss around a year of action, making their returns just two months ago.  Now they’re back to playing their best tennis, and vying for another big title in their first career meeting.  Along with Naomi Osaka, Ash and Bianca have separated themselves from the rest of the tour, and are creating an elite aura around themselves.

 

Barty was the champion of this tournament two years ago, her first WTA Premier Mandatory title (now a “WTA 1000” event).  Just two months later, she claimed her first Major at Roland Garros.  And she ended 2019 as the world No.1, after also winning the WTA Finals.  Ash only played 14 matches in 2020, choosing not to leave Australia due to the pandemic.  Yet despite that lack of match play, she’s gone 13-2 in 2021, and has advanced to the final in her first tournament outside Australia in over a year.  Barty is looking to defend a title for the first time in her career.

Just two weeks before Barty prevailed in the 2019 Miami event, Andreescu was the surprise winner in Indian Wells.  She would go on to only play one match on clay that season due to injury, but immediately started winning again once returning to North America.  Bianca prevailed at the Rogers Cup in her home country of Canada, and proceeded to win her first Slam at the US Open. But injuries and pandemic restrictions prevented Andreescu from playing at all in 2020.  After nearly 16 months, she returned to action at February’s Australian Open.  And now in just her third tournament, she’s reached the championship match, and is looking to collect the only big North American title she’s yet to win.

Ash Barty (1) vs. Bianca Andreescu (8) – 1:00pm local time

Each player has won five matches to reach this final, though Andreescu has spent nearly three more hours on court.  Her semifinal against Maria Sakkari lasted almost twice as long as Barty’s semi, and concluded around 1:30am local time.  Bianca has now played four consecutive three-setters, while Ash has advanced a bit more easily after saving a match point to escape her opening round.  Andreescu has now secured 20 of her last 23 deciding sets, which reveals her ability to elevate her game under pressure.  But Barty’s survival skills are almost as impressive, as she’s taken 22 of her last 27 deciding sets.

Both possess a wide array of shots, which should make for some creative and engaging rallies.  Without any previous encounters between the two to dissect, it’s hard to know what the deciding factors will be on Saturday.  But what we’ve seen out of Andreescu this fortnight is reminiscent of her 2019 form, when at one stretch she prevailed in 27 consecutive completed matches (not counting retirements or walkovers).  When Bianca is healthy and playing this well, she can seem unstoppable.  And unlike Barty, she will not have the added burden of trying to defend her title.  Andreescu is 3-0 in North American finals, and I suspect she’ll extend that record to 4-0 on Saturday.

Also on Saturday, the Men’s Doubles Championship (Not before 3:30pm):

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (2) vs. Dan Evans and Neal Skupski – Mektic and Pavic are already going for their fourth title this year, and are 24-3 since forming this new partnership.  Skupski claimed a doubles title just two weeks ago in Acapulco with his brother Ken.

Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Ons Jabeur Acknowledges Mental Toughness Ahead Of Charleston Semi-Finals

Ons Jabeur has acknowledged her improvement in her mental game as she heads into her fourth WTA semi-final in Charleston.

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Ons Jabeur (@VolvoCarOpen - Twitter)

Ons Jabeur has acknowledged her improvement in the mental parts of her game after reaching the Charleston semi-finals.

 

The Tunisian comfortably beat Coco Gauff 6-3 6-3 in 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach the last four in Charleston.

It was a dominant performance from the world number 28 who broke on six occasions to set up a semi-final against Danka Kovinic.

However yesterday’s win was also evidence that Jabeur’s mental toughness has improved as in 2020, the Tunisian was 0-5 in quarter-final matches and 0-2 against Gauff having lost in Lexington and Rome to the American teenager.

Speaking after the victory, Jabeur admitted that it was nice to settle those demons last night, “Maybe this year is a revenge year for me,” Jabeur told the WTA website.

“Honestly, mentally-wise I’m much better. I’m getting there. I had my opportunities against her last year. She’s a great player. I know exactly what I’m going to face and I was ready for the battle.

“I’m glad that I’m playing good now. I know that clay is amazing and I gotta say, I have been enjoying sliding a lot lately. It’s the best part of the clay. I like the green clay. It’s different than the red clay but I like it. The bounce is not too high, it’s not too low. It’s a good balance for me.

“I’m just trying to play my game. I’m trying to enjoy after a very tough start to the season. A lot of expectations. I’m really glad I got to prove myself this week and I’m in the semi-finals.”

Jabeur will look to continue her good form in 2020 which saw her climb into the world’s top 30 and end the season with a 27-11 win-loss record.

Saturday will be Jabeur’s fourth WTA career semi-final and her first since 2019 where she reached the last four in Tianjin.

The meeting with Kovinic will be the first WTA Tour meeting of their career although Jabeur won their meeting on the ITF circuit in Budapest in 2018 6-2 6-1.

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Lorenzo Musetti’s Run Ended By Djere In Cagliari

Sonego, Fritz, Basilashvili, join Serb in semi-final line-up.

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Laslo Djere (@TickTockTennis - Twitter)

Italian teen sensation Lorenzo Musetti’s run at the Sardegna Open was ended by Laslo Djere in an error-strewn match played out in tricky conditions.

 

The 19-year-old, who has looked in supreme form this week and ousted top seed Dan Evans in a second round thriller on Thursday, appeared to run out of steam in the deciding set as the Serb ran out a 6-4 4-6 6-2 winner.

The strong gusts that have blown across the centre court all week at the Cagliari Tennis Club appeared to have saved their best efforts for this encounter, as both men seemed to be affected by the tricky conditions. Djere particularly struggled on his serve, offering up 8 double faults, but he was still able to take control of the final set as his young opponent faded.

Musetti will no doubt still be pleased with his work in Sardinia. He will be one to watch next week as a Wild Card at the Monte Carlo Masters, where he has been drawn against Aslan Karatsev in the first round, with a potential second round clash against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Meanwhile, third seed Lorenzo Sonego ensured there would still be an Italian representative in the last four as he came through against Yannick Hanfmann 3-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-3. The German started impressively and had the opportunity to serve for the match at 5-4 in the second set but was unable to convert. Sonego then recovered from a 3-0 deficit in the ensuing tie break to level proceedings, before going on to seal the win.

In the semi-finals Sonego will have the chance to gain revenge for his defeat in Doha last month to Taylor Fritz. The American second seed came through 6-3 6-4 against an out-of-sorts Aljaz Bedene.

Fritz appeared to be cruising at a set and a break up, with his opponent struggling to make an impact on the gangly American. It left Bedene somewhat uncharacteristically venting his frustration, but this seemed to work for the Slovenian as he was able to break back. It was Bedene’s serve that let him down at a crucial moment, two double faults at 3-3 helping to hand Fritz another crucial, and ultimately decisive, break.

The final semi-final spot was claimed by Nikoloz Basilashvili, who defeated Jan-Lennard Struff 7-5 4-6 6-3 under the floodlights in the final action of the day. Struff has struggled for form so far in 2021 but had looked solid so far this week, and the match-up led to some predictably entertaining rallies. After a tight first two sets, Doha champion Basilashvili was able to take advantage of some Struff errors early in the third, surging to a 3-0 lead. Despite a mini-fightback from the German, Basilashvili clung on to book a Saturday meeting with the unseeded Djere.

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Lorenzo Musetti Blasts ‘Disrespectful’ Evans After Reaching Cagliari Quarter-Finals

Lorenzo Musetti has called Dan Evans disrespectful after reaching the Cagliari quarter-finals.

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Lorenzo Musetti (@atptour - Twitter)

Lorenzo Musetti has hit out at Dan Evans after beating him to reach the last eight in Cagliari.

 

The Italian rising star defeated Evans in a tight contest 6-1 1-6 7-6(8) to reach the quarter-finals in Cagliari.

Musetti saved four match points having been 4-0 and 6-3 down in the final set tiebreak before rallying back to claim victory.

However after the match there was an unusual celebration from the 19 year-old, who threw his racket into the ground.

Clearly frustrated, the Italian made it known after the match that he didn’t appreciate Evans’ attitude, “There are respectful experienced players on the pitch. Others like Evans, they try to use my youth to shoot (win) matches,” Musetti was quoted as saying by TennisHead in his post-match press conference.

“But it’s all experience for me. Evans disrespected me. I don’t want to be treated like a young man. It was really tough. I was 3-6 down in the tiebreak and he was playing good, always going to the net and always aggressive.

“I tried to stay calm and tried to play each point. That is what I did and it worked, so I am really happy and really proud of myself with this win.”

During the match, Evans implemented some unusual return positioning in the second set which is what may have upset the Italian.

However the main thing is Musetti is now into the quarter-finals in Cagliari as he continues his rise among tennis’ elite.

The Italian has already beaten the likes of Stan Wawrinka, Diego Schwartzman and Grigor Dimitrov as he has already broken into the top 100.

Musetti will play Laslo Djere of Serbian in the last eight on Friday.

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