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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Ugo Humbert saves three match points to beat Hubert Hurkacz in Dubai

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Fifth-seed Ugo Humbert came back from one set down to beat Hubert Hurkacz 3-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-3. Humbert had beaten Hurkacz en route to his title in Marseille. 

Hurkacz converted his third break point in the fourth game to win the first set 6-3. Humbert saved three match points in the tie-break of the second set before converting his first set point to force the match to the decider. Humbert broke twice to seal the third set 6-3. 

“It was a great battle. I tried to battle for every point. In the tie-break I saved three match points, tried to do my best and thanks to those French fans for the amazing support”, said Humbert. 

Humbert set up a semifinal match against Danil Medvedev, who beats Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2 6-3. Humbert leads 2-1 in their head-to-head matches, but Medvedev won their most recent match in three sets at the China Open in their most recent head-to-head match in Beijing last year.

“It’s going to be a great challenge against Danil tomorrow. We had a few great fights. Hopefully I will recover well to be ready for this match”, said Humbert. 

Aleksander Bublik was leading Jiri Lehecka 6-4 4-1 when the Czech player was forced to retire due to an injury. Bublik set up a match against Andrey Rublev, who was leading Sebastian Korda 6-4 4-3  when the Czech player withdrew due to injury. 

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Brazilian Rising Star Joao Fonseca Waives College Eligibility To Turn Pro

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Image via https://twitter.com/RioOpenOficial/

One of Brazil’s most promising young tennis players has made the bold decision to abandon a dream of his to play college tennis in America to turn pro. 

17-year-old Jaoao Fonseca was committed to playing college tennis at the University of Virginia but says professional tennis has called him in a way he couldn’t refuse. The rising star has played just two Tour-level events so far in his career and is currently ranked 343rd in the world. 

At last week’s Rio Open, he became the second-youngest player after Alexander Zverev to reach the quarter-finals of an ATP 500 event since the category was introduced. In his home tournament, the Brazillian beat Arthur Fils and Cristian Garin before losing to Mariano Navone.

“It was an incredibly tough decision for me and my family as I have been dreaming about living a college life in Charlottesville, playing the sport that l love with a wonderful team and coach, but, in the last months, professional tennis called me in a way that I simply couldn’t say no,” Fonseca wrote in a statement published on Instagram
“Although I will not be attending school, I think it is an extremely valuable and viable path for young players in their way to professional careers,” he added.

Fonseca has already enjoyed success on the junior circuit. Last year he was runner-up in the doubles tournament at the Australian Open boy’s event. Then at the US Open, he won his first Grand Slam junior title in singles. He is also a former ITF Junior World No.1 and is currently ranked second in the standings. 

The youngster has already been hailed by compatriot Beatriz Haddad Maia, who is currently ranked 13th on the WTA Tour. Speaking to reporters at the San Diego Open, she has offered her support to Fonseca if he needs it. 

“João is a nice person. He has a great future, if he keeps working hard and keeps doing what he’s doing. I think he has a very aggressive mentality and tennis.” She said.

“We sometimes text each other, but not that much. But I’m always following.. not only him.. but the Brazilians. I’m proud of what he’s doing. He has a long way and he needs to understand that it’s a marathon, it’s not a 100 meter race.’
“Tennis has its ups and downs. I wish him all the best, for sure. I’ll be here whenever he wants. I’m happy with what he’s doing.” 

Fonseca played at the Chile Open this week but lost in the first round to Thiago Agustin Tirante.

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Emma Raducanu Among Trio of Grand Slam Winners Handed Miami Open Wild Cards

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Emma Raducanu - Cincinnati 2022 (foto Twitter @cincytennis)

Emma Raducanu has avoided the possibility of having to go through qualifying at the Miami Open after being awarded a wild card for the event on Thursday. 

The 2021 US Open champion is among four players to have received passes into the main draw of the prestigious event, which is classed as a WTA 1000 for the women and as a Masters 1000 for the men. It will be the third straight year that Raducanu has played in Miami but she is yet to win a match there. In 2022 she lost her opening match to Katerina Siniakova before getting beaten by Bianca Andreescu 12 months later. 

Raducanu has won two out of five Tour-level matches played so far this year. Recently her agent, Max Eisenbud, hit back at those who have criticised the tennis star’s results since winning the US Open. Raducanu also missed a chunk of last season due to injury after undergoing wrist and ankle surgery. 

“The girl did everything backward. She skipped every step. She won the US Open, she went to the next tournament, she didn’t even know where the player lounge was, she didn’t know where the practice courts were,” Eisenbud told the Served With Andy Roddick podcast.
“I don’t think just being tough on her or critical on her like any other player [is wrong]. But she is still figuring it out. I just think that people should not be malicious.”

Other players to have received wild cards into Miami include Venus Williams, who is a three-time champion at the event but hasn’t won the title since 2001. The 43-year-old hasn’t played on the Tour since August and is currently ranked outside the world’s top 400. 

Carolina Wozniacki completes the line-up of former Grand Slam winners being given wild cards. The Dane was a Miami finalist back in 2017 and has made 12 appearances at the tournament. Earlier this week, she suffered a 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, loss to Anna Blinkova in the first round of the San Diego Open. 

As for the men’s tournament, the only confirmed wild card recipient is Kei Nishikori who will be making his first competitive start since July 2023. Recently the injury-stricken Japanese player added Thomas Johansson to his team. 

The Miami Open will get underway on March 17th.

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