Wimbledon Daily Preview: Ash Barty and Karolina Pliskova Play for the Ladies’ Singles Championship - UBITENNIS
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Wimbledon Daily Preview: Ash Barty and Karolina Pliskova Play for the Ladies’ Singles Championship

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Karolina Pliskova on Thursday at The All England Club (wimbledon.com/AELTC)

In 2016, Karolina Pliskova reached her first Major final.  A year later, she spent seven weeks as the No.1 player in the world.  In a stretch between 2016 and 2019, she advanced to the quarterfinals or better at seven out of 10 Slams, and won seven tour titles.  But the last 18 months had been rough for Karolina.  Outside of two runs to the final in Rome, she only achieved one semifinal.  Pliskova arrived in London on a three-match losing streak, and had never gone beyond the fourth round of this event.  However, after five straight-set victories over unseeded players, and one three-set victory over the No.2 seed, she’s into her second career Major final.

 

In 2016, Ash Barty was a professional cricket player in Australia.  Having left tennis at the age of 18, she would announce later in 2016 that she would return to the sport.  Her singles results started to come in 2017 and 2018, with 2019 being her big breakthrough.  After reaching her first Major quarterfinal at her home Slam, she surprisingly won the French Open, as clay had not historically been her strongest surface.   Ash became the No.1 player in the world, reaching the second week of every Major she played over a two-and-a-half-year span, and she’s claimed 11 titles since her return.  Like Pliskova, Barty has only dropped one set this fortnight, and is into her second Major singles final.

Also on Saturday, and ladies’ and gentlemen’s doubles championship matches will be played.

Ash Barty (1) vs. Karolina Pliskova (8) – 2:00pm on Centre Court

Barty leads their head-to-head 5-2 at all levels, and has taken their last three encounters.  They’ve split two meetings on grass, though those occurred way back in 2012 and 2016.  Four of their seven matches have gone three sets, and 6 out of their 18 sets played have been decided by a tiebreak.  So while Ash has prevailed in this rivalry since rising to the top of the sport, it’s been far from one-sided.

Pliskova has only been broken four times through six matches.  But she’s yet to face a player with the variety of Barty.  And over the last few years, Ash has been the much better player, with a record of 102-22 since the start of 2019.  While Ash’s serve has been broken much more frequently, she’s the superior player once a rally begins.  That’s not to dismiss the effectiveness of Karolina’s powerful groundstrokes, especially on this surface.  And her movement is often underrated.  Still, Pliskova will need to rack up a lot of aces, and maintain a high percentage of first serves in, to be competitive.

Barty seems relaxed and content despite the length of this current road trip away from Australia, and surely having her boyfriend join her during this fortnight has helped the London bubble feel a little more like home.  She’s been wearing a dress modeled after what Austalian Evonne Goolagong wore when she first won this event 50 years ago, her second Major.  It only seems fitting for Ash to win her second Major on these grounds.  I would not be surprised to see a tight three-setter considering Pliskova’s current form, but Barty just has so many options at her disposal, even when her best weapons are failing her.  And since the start of last year, Ash is 18-3 in three-setters.  She’s the favorite to raise the Venus Rosewater Dish on Saturday afternoon.

Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Su-Wei Hsieh and Elise Mertens (3) vs. Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Vesnina – In Friday’s semifinals, the Russian team came back from 2-5 down in the third, saving three match points.  They saved four additional match points earlier in the tournament.  Vesnina was a mixed doubles runner-up last month in Paris, and won this title four years ago with Ekaterina Makarova.  Hsieh won this title two years ago with Barbora Strycova.

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (1) vs. Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (4) – Mate and Pavic are 47-6 on the season with seven titles.  But they are still vying for their first Major as a team, as are Granollers and Zeballos, who were finalists at the 2019 US Open.  These teams split two meetings this year.  Both were contested on clay, and both went to a deciding set tiebreak.

Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Ash Barty Reveals ‘Excitement’ After Mixed Doubles Medal In Tokyo

Ash Barty has revealed her excitement after her and John Peers won Australia’s first Olympic tennis medal for 17 years.

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Ash Barty and John Peers (@ITFTennis - Twitter)

Ash Barty revealed her excitement at winning Bronze in the mixed doubles in Tokyo with John Peers.

 

The world number one along with doubles specialist John Peers claimed Australia’s first tennis medal at the Olympics since 2004.

Despite benefiting from a bronze medal match withdrawal from Novak Djokovic and Nina Stojanovic, that hasn’t taken away the happiness of claiming an Olympic medal.

Speaking to the Channel 7 programmes Sunrise Barty proudly spoke about the achievement, “It’s been an amazing week for both John and I,” Barty was quoted as saying by Tennis Australia.

“We’ve played some great tennis, probably the best we’ve ever played together. To walk away with a medal and contribute to the team total here in Australia has been incredible.

“Johnny and I, we put ourselves in a position all week to play good tennis and I feel like we really deserve this one. We were so close to being in that gold medal play-off and I think for both of us, it’s been awesome. We’ve played great. I felt like we really deserved this one for Australia.

“No, I think for us it’s excitement. I just hope as athletes, as a whole Australian team that’s here – all 480 odd of us – we can bring a smile to people’s faces at home when they’re sitting on the couch enjoying watching us trying (to) go out there and do Australia proud.”

As for John Peers it was an achievement of a lifetime, inspired by the traditional Olympic spirit, “Any chance you get to represent your country and to do it alongside Ash, to be able to say we’re the first mixed doubles medallists at an Olympics for Australia is something really special,” the 33 year-old commented.

“There was so much uncertainty leading into the Games and to be able to see the way the Australian team’s come together and sort of really bonded has really shown the Australian spirit, the way that all the athletes get behind each other.

“To be able to show the Olympics is going on in uncertain times is just something really special and unique and hopefully it can be the turning point for the world, and Australia, to come out the other side.”

Both will be hoping that this week will be the start of something special for Australian tennis as they will look to capitalise on this success in three years time in Paris.

Next for John Peers will be Washington next week where he and Filip Polasek are the top seeds.

While Ash Barty will be starting her preparations for the US Open in Cincinnati which starts on the 16th of August.

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Czech Republican Trailblazers Inspire Krejcikova and Siniakova To Olympic Gold In Tokyo

Barbora Krejcikova and Katarina Siniakova reflect on Czech Republic’s Olympic past after Olympic gold.

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Barbora Krejcikova and Katarina Siniakova (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova admit that former Czech Republican trailblazers inspired them to win doubles gold in Tokyo.

 

The top seeds claimed gold with a 7-5 6-1 win over Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic and Viktorija Golubic.

After edging a tight opening set, the Czech Republican duo eased to victory to claim gold in Tokyo.

It was a historic gold as the pair went one better than trailblazers Jana Novotna and Helena Sukova who won silver in Seoul 1988 and Atlanta 1992.

After the victory today Krejcikova paid tribute to those before them and said that they were inspired by those who came before them, “The motivation we got from the previous medallists is really big,” the Roland Garros champion told the ITF website.

“I think we got really inspired by them. I think we really need to thank them because without them we just wouldn’t have the motivation and the inspiration.

“It’s really big. We’re really happy and really grateful that we could be here. We did such a great job during these 10 days and we have this beautiful gold medal. It’s pretty much a dream come true.”

While Katerina Siniakova also outlined how special it is to win the gold medal as the top seeds remain the team to beat in the Women’s doubles game, “It’s really special this one,” Siniakova admitted.

“I really enjoyed my whole time here. It was really tough and I’m so glad we kept fighting and in the end we have this one, this gold medal. It’s really amazing. I feel so honoured I got to represent my country.”

The Czech Republican will be favourites to win their fourth grand slam at the US Open in late August.

As for Bencic and Golubic, it has been a successful tournament especially for Bencic who won Olympic gold yesterday.

After the match Bencic admitted it’s not just about Olympic medals and that its about the memories created, “It’s not just about the medals or the titles, it’s about the memories you create that will last forever,” Bencic claimed.

“To share this with Viki is unbelievable. The whole week I never felt like I was in a normal tournament or playing alone. She was alongside me the entire way. I always tell her we won this gold medal together as well.

“When we will be 80 years old and have a coffee, we will talk about these moments and I cannot wait for that.”

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Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Sascha Zverev and Karen Khachanov Play for Gold

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Karen Khachanov celebrating victory earlier this week in Tokyo (twitter.com/ITFTennis)

48 hours after ending Novak Djokovic’s bid for a Golden Slam, a feat only achieved by German Steffi Graf, Sascha Zverev looks to win another gold medal for Germany.  But a big-hitting Russian stands in his way, one who owns a winning record against Zverev on hard courts.

 

The last day of tennis in Tokyo will also host two gold medal matches in doubles.  In women’s doubles, Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova have won three Majors, and now go for a gold medal against Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic and Viktorija Golubic.  For Bencic, it’s an opportunity to win a second gold medal in as many days.  

In addition, a pair of teams representing the Russian Olympic Committee will face off for gold in mixed doubles.  Will Elena Vesnina be able to recover from a devastating loss in Saturday’s women’s doubles bronze medal match?  Vesnina and Veronika Kudermetova held four match points, only to lose the last six points of the match and fail to reach the podium.

Sunday’s play gets underway at 3:00pm local time.

Sascha Zverev (4) [GER] vs. Karen Khachanov (12) [ROC] – Second on Centre Court

Overall they have split four previous encounters, but Khachanov leads 2-1 on this surface, which includes their two most recent meetings.  And neither of those have been close.  At the 2018 Paris Masters, it was 6-1, 6-2.  At the 2019 Rogers Cup, it was 6-3, 6-3.  The event in Paris was the biggest title run of the Russian’s career, and a week where he also defeated Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic.  However, he hasn’t won a title, or even reached a final, ever since.  And prior to his run to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, Khachanov was only 16-14 on the year.  But it is worth noting he’s 4-0 lifetime in ATP finals, with his other three victories coming at 250-level events.

Zverev is certainly the far more accomplished player.  He owns 15 career titles, which includes four Masters events, as well as the 2018 ATP Finals.  And he’s reached the semifinals or better at Majors three times, something Khachanov is yet to achieve.   Though I do wonder just how much scar tissue was created by his loss in the final of last year’s US Open, where he was up two sets before eventually losing in a fifth-set tiebreak.  Both he and Dominic Thiem played a considerably nervy match, and this will be Zverev’s first best-of-five final since that painful loss.

And that could be a significant factor on this day: the men’s singles gold medal final is the only match at the Olympics that is best-of-five.  Zverev possesses a much stronger record in best-of-five, and a far superior record in five-setters.  As per Tennis Abstract, Sascha is 16-9 in fifth sets, compared to Karen’s record of 6-7.  And Khachanov’s two most recent five-set wins were not pretty.  A few weeks ago in the fourth round of Wimbledon, against Sebastian Korda, 13 out of the 18 games in the fifth set were breaks of serve.  And last summer at the US Open, he was only able to come back from two sets down thanks to the cramping of Jannik Sinner. 

So who is the favorite to win gold?  Their head-to-head favors Khachanov, while recent form and best-of-five experience favors Zverev.  And the German has been serving excellently throughout this tournament, striking 40 aces and only three doubles, especially impressive for a player who has suffered from double fault issues in the recent past.  However, Zverev had a much easier road to this final than Khachanov.  Other than Djokovic, Sascha faced no one ranked inside the top 40, while Karen beat three top 30 players.  The Olympics are an event which often produces surprising tennis results.  And these are two men who are known to get tight in big matches.  But considering the way Zverev has been serving, and the confidence boost his upset of Djokovic should provide, I give Sascha the slight edge to become an Olympic champion.

Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrey Rublev (4) [ROC] vs. Elena Vesnina and Aslan Karatsev [ROC] – Vesnina not only lost a heartbreaker on Saturday, she and Kudermetova also served for the championship a few weeks ago at Wimbledon, before losing 9-7 in the third.  And Vesnina and Karatsev were defeated in the mixed doubles final at Roland Garros, the same event where Pavlyuchenkvoa lost in the women’s singles final.  Who will realize redemption on Sunday?

Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (1) [CZE] vs. Belinda Bencic and Viktorija Golubic – The Czechs are of course the favorites, with three Major titles as a team.  The Swiss are a new team formed exclusively for this event.  But don’t count them out, especially with Bencic coming off a gold medal victory in singles on Saturday evening.

Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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