Brilliant Women’s Semi-Final Line-Up Lights Up Wimbledon 2021 - UBITENNIS
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Brilliant Women’s Semi-Final Line-Up Lights Up Wimbledon 2021

Ashleigh Barty, Karolina Pliskova, Aryna Sabalenka and Angelique Kerber produced superb displays to set up two thrilling semi-finals.

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Ashleigh Barty (AUS) reaches for the ball in her match against Anna Blinkova (RUS) in the second round of the Ladies' Singles on Centre Court at The Championships 2021. Credit: AELTC/David Gray

When Elina Svitolina, Sofia Kenin and Victoria Azarenka followed Serena Williams, Belinda Bencic and Petra Kvitova out of the exit door at Wimbledon before the third round began, all the usual stories about the seeded players crashing out of the women’s draw early started popping up all over the news feeds of major publications.

 

However, anyone who looked at these articles and feared for the quality of the Ladies’ Singles event at Wimbledon 2021 need not have worried, as Tuesday’s quarter-finals demonstrated.

Three of the top ten seeds – Ashleigh Barty, Aryna Sabalenka and Karolina Pliskova – produced superb performances to secure relatively straightforward progress to the last four. 2018 champion Angelique Kerber joins them. She dispatched Karolina Muchova 6-2 6-3 to complete a brilliant semi-final line-up.

Kerber Faces Fascinating Barty Clash

The German will have to prepare for a really difficult task. She faces World No.1 Barty, who has finally broken her quarter-final duck at SW19 and now looks well set to win her first Wimbledon title.

The Australian was in commanding form in the last eight. She took the first set 6-1 against compatriot Alja Tomljanovic in just 25 minutes. Then she brushed aside a minor fightback from her opponent to win the second set 6-3.

Despite her excellent form, Barty will be very wary of Kerber. The German is the only former champion still in the draw. And she has caused the World No.1 plenty of problems in their previous meetings, as their 2-2 head-to-head record suggests.

Furthermore, the 25th seed is one of the best in the world on grass when she is on form. And she is currently enjoying a ten-match winning streak so her confidence is high. Whatever happens, it promises to be a thrilling encounter and the winner must surely be considered the favourite to win Saturday’s final.

Sabalenka’s Breakthrough Slam

Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) celebrates her win against Elena Rybakina (KAZ) in the fourth round of the Ladies’ Singles on No.3 Court at The Championships 2021. Credit: AELTC/Edward Whitaker

Ever since she emerged, Aryna Sabalenka has been tipped as a future Grand Slam champion. She is almost certainly the most powerful player in the women’s game. When she is at her best, she uses her big serve and even bigger groundstrokes to completely overwhelm opponents.

However, despite her obvious abilities, the Belarussian had never reached a major quarter-final before this week. Up until now, she has always been one error-strewn display away from an early exit. Therefore, if this breakthrough fortnight turns out to be a yardstick of her growing maturity, the rest of the WTA Tour should definitely be worried.

Sabalenka has not breezed through the draw by any means. Britain’s Katie Boulter pushed her hard in round two. Then rising star Elena Rybakina tested her in round four. However, the 2nd seed produced a very impressive performance in the last eight to defeat Ons Jabeur, the rapidly-improving Tunisian who can be a dangerous opponent for anyone.

Pliskova Bids To Maintain Stunning Form

In the semi-final, the Belarussian will face Karolina Pliskova. The Czech is a fascinating figure on the WTA Tour. She seems to have almost all the attributes needed to win a Grand Slam title. She possesses a brilliant serve, precise, powerful groundstrokes and a fearless approach to the toughest matches.

Despite these qualities, the 8th seed has only reached one Grand Slam final and two semi-finals. This has led many observers to question her movement, which is relatively limited, and her temperament on court, which does occasionally boil over, as her furious swipe which took a chunk out of the umpire’s chair in Rome demonstrated.

Encouragingly for Pliskova’s followers, the Czech has looked to be the epitome of calm at Wimbledon 2021 so far. She has glided through the draw like a swan across a lake. And it has been mightily impressive to watch her make it through to the semi-final without dropping a set.

The 8th seed’s serene progress and greater experience make her the more likely winner of her last-four showdown with Sabalenka. She should also be encouraged by her superb wins over Serena Williams (the player most similar to the Belarussian) in 2016 and 2019. During both those victories, she demonstrated her ability to skilfully re-direct powerful strikes into open areas of the court.

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Lorenzo Sonego claims the title in Metz

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Lorenzo Sonego beat seventh seed Alexander Bublik 7-6 (7-3) 6-2 after 87 minutes in the final of the Moselle Open in Metz to win the third title of his career and the first in 2022 without dropping a set in the whole week after beating Hubert Hurkacz in the semifinal. Sonego won his first tournament on hard-court.

 

Sonego, who was playing the fifth final of his career, saved three break points at 2-2 to hold serve in the fifth game of a hard-fought first set. Bublik saved a set point on return at 4-5 down with a backhand passing shot. 

Sonego won four consecutive points from 3-3 in the tie-break with two mini-breaks to claim the opening set 7-3 after 57 minutes. 

Sonego broke serve in the third game at 15 to take a 2-1 lead, as Bublik made a volley error on the break point. The former Vienna finalist earned a double break at 30 in the fourth game to take a 4-1 lead with a passing shot. Sonego closed out the win with a hold at 15 on his first match point. 

Sonego has extended his lead in the head-to-head matches against Bublik to 4-0. 

“I improved my tennis every day, and I am really happy for this match and this tournament. I like the atmosphere here. It was unbelievable today, yesterday and this week. It’s really tough to play against Alexander, because he is an unbelievable player with an amazing serve, good talent, and it is always tough to play him”, said Sonego. 

Sonego has reached his first ATP Tour final since Eastbourne in June 2021.  With this title he has moved up to world number 44 in the ATP Ranking. 

Bublik had won his first ATP title on French indoor courts in Montpellier last February. “Big congratulations to Lorenzo. It’s always a pleasure to lose against you, as I told you at the net. Thanks to my team, thanks to everyone for supporting me and I was happy to be back in the finals in France”, said Bublik.

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In-Form Liudmila Samsonova Storms To Tokyo Title

Tokyo is the second tournament this year the Russian has won without dropping a set.

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Image via https://twitter.com/WTA_insider

Liudmila Samsonova has continued her rapid surge on the Tour by defeating China’s Qinwen Zheng 7-5, 7-5, to win the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. 

 

The world No.30 dropped serve only once and hit four aces as she edged her way past rising star Zheng who is the first Chinese teenager to reach the final of a Tour-level singles event. Overall, Samsonova won 68% of her service points en route to becoming the first Russian player to win the tournament since Nadia Petrova in 2012. 

“It’s amazing, I don’t have too many words right now. I need a little bit of time,” said Samsonova, who beat Grand Slam champions Elena Rybakina and Garbine Muguruza earlier in the draw. 
“It was a really tough match. She is playing amazing. It was a nervous match, we were fighting every point. It was tough.”

Samsonova is becoming a formidable force in the women’s game and has now won 18 out of her past 19 matches. Last month she also won titles in Washington and Cleveland before reaching the last 16 of the US Open for the first time in her career at the age of 23. She is now 4-0 in tournament finals and didn’t drop a set in Tokyo this week. 

“I played a high level in all my five matches. I am incredibly happy about how I managed it,” she said.

There is also a reason for Zheng to celebrate with her run in Tokyo securing her place in the world’s top 30 for the first time on Monday when the rankings are updated. Making her the first Chinese player to do so as a teenager. She is also only the second teenager to reach the final of a WTA 500 event or higher this season after Coco Gauff at the French Open. 

Samsonova will also rise to a ranking high on Monday to just outside the world’s top 20. 

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Team Europe leads 8-4 over Team World 8-4 heading into the final day at the Laver Cup

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Novak Djokovic cruised past Frances Tiafoe 6-1 6-3 after 72 minutes to earn Team Europe a 6-4 lead over Team World at the Laver Cup at the O2 Arena in London. 

 

Djokovic also won the doubles match with Matteo Berrettini to put Europe into a 8-4 lead before the final day on Sunday.

Djokovic was playing his first match since his 21st Grand Slam title at Wimbledon last July, when he beat Nick Kyrgios. The Serbian player holds a 1-1 at the Laver Cup, after losing his only previous match at this tournament against Kevin Anderson in 2018. 

Djokovic did not drop a point on serve in the first set against Tiafoe and faced just one break point in the entire match. He held serve at love in the opening game. 

Tiafoe held in the second game with a service winner. Djokovic won his second service game to take a 2-1 lead before breaking serve in the fourth game to open up a 3-1 lead. 

Djokovic hit another service winner in the fifth game to hold his third consecutive service game. Djokovic rallied from 0-30 down to earn his second break with a crosscourt forehand winner building up a 5-1 lead. 

Djokovic closed out the first set at love 6-1 in the seventh game with a backhand down the line after 22 minutes. 

Djokovic converted a break point in the opening game of the second set with a backhand winner. Tiafoe earned a break point with a backhand down the line winner in the second game. Djokovic saved it to build up a 6-1 2-0 lead. Tiafoe held serve in the third game with a winner at the net. Djokovic held serve with an ace down the T line at love In the fourth game to open up a 3-1 lead. 

Tiafoe fended off a break point in the fifth game with a backhand crosscourt winner and held another chance with a lucky net cord winner. Djokovic hit an ace to hold serve for 4-3. Tiafoe netted a backhand to face two match points, as he was serving to stay in the match in the ninth game. Djokovic converted his first match point to earn his 24th  win this season. 

“I have not played for two months and I am really glad to have continued the run, It was a pretty decent match from my side”, said Djokovic.

Earlier today Matteo Berrettini edged Felix Auger Aliassime 7-6 (13-11) 4-6 10-7 in a hard-fought match to put Team Europe ahead 4-2. Berrettini sealed a very long tie-break on his sixth set point in the first set 13-11 in the first set after more than 20 minutes. Auger Aliassime needed just one break in the thirdto win the second set 6-4. Berrettini earned a 7-2 lead with two mini-breaks in the Super tie-break. Auger Aliassime pulled one mini-break back for 5-8, but Berrettini sealed the win 10-7 on his first match point after 2 hours and 15 minutes.  Berrettini has extended his lead in his head-to-head matches against Auger Aliassime to 4-1. He beat his 22-year-old Canadian rival in last year’s edition of the Laver Cup. 

“It’s always a great fight against Felix. We played for 2 hours and 15 minutes. He is a hell of a player. I had to play my best tennis in the Match tie-break to win. I am really happy because I didn’t win just for me but for the team. Having the chance to live what we lived yesterday is something that’s going that’s going to be stuck in my heart and my brain forever. I am not lying when I say that I am here because of Federer. He was the one that I was looking up to. He was the one that I was supporting, cheering for him”, said Berrettini. 

Taylor Fritz then edged past Cameron Norrie 6-1 4-6 10-8 to draw the tie level to 4-4 before Djokovic cruised past Tiafoe to give Europe a 6-4 lead. The 21-time Grand Slam champion teamed up with Berrettini to beat Jack Sock and Alex De Minaur 7-5 6-2 in 1 hour and 22 minutes.

Team Europe leads 8-4 heading into the final day. Europe will win a fifth cnnsecutive title with two more victories.

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