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Ivanovic Into Oz Open Third Round

Ivanovic Into Oz Open Third Round

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

MELBOURNE, Australia – Former No.1 Ana Ivanovic had to deal with a half hour break when a spectator took a spill on Rod Laver Arena, but the Serb maintained her focus to close out Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova, 6-3, 6-3.

Sevastova first made waves in 2011 when she reached the round of 16 at the Australian Open, but a brief retirement took her out of the game for nearly two years before she came back last January. Coming through three rounds of main draw qualifying, the 25-year-old played Ivanovic tough over two sets, but was ultimately undone by unforced errors – 27 to Ivanovic’s 17.

Ivanovic, by contrast, played a much cleaner match, breaking serve four times and winning 83% of her first serves.

“I enjoy playing here so much; this is one of my favorite courts in the world,” Ivanovic said during her on-court interview. “It’s always good to be back.”

The No.20 seed has looked solid through her first two matches, a major improvement over her last appearance in Melbourne, when a broken toe hampered her through an opening round loss.

“I tried to work on my fitness during the off-season; that needed improvements after last season. I hired a new fitness coach, so it’s been really great. We did a lot of prevention work for injuries, and fitness and on-court work.

“It’s a work in progress.”

Up next for Ivanovic is the winner of the second round match between No.15 seed Madison Keys and Yaroslava Shvedova, the latter of whom pushed her to three sets at last year’s French Open.

“Every match is tough and we’ve seen that throughout the week. Every opponent is tough and there have been a lot of tricky first round matches.

“But I’m really thrilled be to be through and you guys are amazing, so excited about your tennis, so keep it up!

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Insider Draw Analysis: Cincinnati

Insider Draw Analysis: Cincinnati

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Serena Williams must advance to the quarterfinals to secure the No.1 ranking.

With the top spot on the WTA rankings in play this week, World No.1 Serena took a late wildcard into the tournament. The scenarios are simple. If Serena makes the quarterfinal she will hold onto the No.1 ranking heading into the US Open. If she loses before the quarterfinal stage, No.2 Angelique Kerber can overtake her by winning the title.

A two-time defending champion here, Serena leads the top half and she could open her tournament against the woman how knocked her out of the Olympic tennis event last week: Elina Svitolina. Svitolina would have to get past Christina McHale in the first round to book a rematch with the 22-time Grand Slam champion. Serena could then play either Karolina Pliskova or Jelena Ostapenko, with Svetlana Kuznetsova or Timea Bacsinszky looming in the quarterfinals.

Click here to check out the full draw.

As for Kerber, anything less than the title means she will remain at No.2 heading into New York. She is into the Gold Medal match at the Olympics, which will be played on Saturday, but as a Top 16 seed she’ll have a bye into the second round. The question is how much will she have left in the tank?

Kerber will play either Kristina Mladenovic or a qualifier in the second round and could play either Sam Stosur or Barbora Strycova in the Round of 16.

Petra Kvitova

Rio Redux.

Serena and Kvitova will both have an opportunity to avenge their Olympic losses. For Serena that could come in her first match against Svitolina, while Kvitova could play Monica Puig in her first match of the tournament. Puig, who is also into the Gold Medal match against Kerber, opens her tournament against American wildcard Louisa Chirico.

Simona Halep gets back to work.

After skipping Rio, Halep spent the week training with coach Darren Cahill and famed fitness trainer Gil Reyes. The Rogers Cup champion will look to continue her winning ways in Cincinnati. With a significant number of points on the line over the next four weeks – Halep made the final here last year and the semifinals of the US Open – defending those points would set up a significant rankings push in Asia this fall.

Halep has won 23 of her last 26 matches dating back to her title run at the Mutua Madrid Open, and she’s currently riding a 10-match win streak. The No.3 seed here, she got the toughest draw of any of the top four seeds, landing in a quarter with No.5 seed Agnieszka Radwanska. She will open her tournament against either Yulia Putintseva or a qualifier and could then face Belinda Bencic, who is returning from injury, or Caroline Garcia.

Agnieszka Radwanska

Agnieszka Radwanska has work to do.

The No.5 has not made a semifinal since April (Porsche Tennis Grand Prix) and has struggled to put together a confidence boosting run over the last few months. It won’t be easy this week in Cincinnati, where she has never made it past the quarterfinals. She will play either Andrea Petkovic or Lucie Safarova in the second round, with Johanna Konta potentially looming in the third round. All that to get to a possible quarterfinal against Halep.

The qualifying draw is stacked.

The Cincinnati qualifying draw, which begins on Saturday, would be a strong International-level event in and of itself. The main draw cut-off was at No.41, meaning a host of top notch players will have to play their way into the main draw.

Eugenie Bouchard took a wildcard into qualifying, and she’s alongside a list of exciting players like Alizé Cornet, Daria Gavrilova, Misaki Doi, Sabine Lisicki, Camila Giorgi, Sorana Cirstea and more. It will be a tough weekend of qualifying matches and the complexion of the draw could change dramatically depending on who makes it through and where they end up being placed.

Follow the qualifying draw here.

Top seeds in the top half: Serena Williams, Garbiñe Muguruza, Svetlana Kuznetsova, and Dominika Cibulkova.

Top seeds in the bottom half: Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep, Agnieszka Radwanska, and Roberta Vinci.

Angelique Kerber

Projected quarterfinals: Serena Williams vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova, Garbiñe Muguruza vs. Dominika Cibulkova, Simona Halep vs. Agnieszka Radwanska, Angelique Kerber vs. Carla Suárez Navarro.

First round matches to watch: Andrea Petkovic vs. Lucie Safarova, Elina Svitolina vs. Christina McHale, Sara Errani vs. CoCo Vandeweghe, Louisa Chirico vs. Monica Puig.

Potential second round matches to watch: Serena Williams vs. Elina Svitolina, Karolina Pliskova vs. Jelena Ostapenko, Garbiñe Muguruza vs. CoCo Vandeweghe, Petra Kvitova vs. Monica Puig, Johanna Konta vs. Ana Ivanovic, Belinda Bencic vs. Caroline Garcia, Simona Halep vs. Yulia Putintseva.

All photos courtesy of Getty Images.

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WTA Stars: They Said

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

The top WTA stars discuss overcoming adversity and becoming strong than those who didn’t believe in them.

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Azarenka & Kerber Battle For SF Spot

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Victoria Azarenka will look to continue her torrid form down under on Day 10, but she’ll face her toughest test to date. We preview both quarterfinals from the lower half of the draw here.

Wednesday, Day 10

[7] Angelique Kerber (GER #6) vs. [14] Victoria Azarenka (BLR # 16)
Head-to-head: Azarenka leads, 6-0
Key Stat: Azarenka has conceded just 11 games in four rounds.

All signs in Melbourne point to Victoria Azarenka’s first trip to a Grand Slam semifinal since the 2013 US Open. One simply can’t deny that the Belarusian, a two-time champion here, has had a stiff wind in her sails since the season began. She’s reeled off her first 18 sets of 2016 and only once dropped more than three games in a set. Azarenka’s scintillating form and burgeoning confidence adds up to a very stiff challenge on Wednesday for No.7-seeded Angelique Kerber. The German will face Azarenka for the seventh time on Wednesday, and she’s hoping to reverse her fortune in what has been a very lopsided head-to-head up until now. But hope springs eternal for Kerber, who is playing with house money after saving a match point in her first-round match against Japan’s Misaki Doi. “I was actually with one leg on the plane back home, but I won the first match with the match point down,” Kerber said on Monday after reaching her first career Australian Open quarterfinal. “So, yeah, and then after I was playing much better. I’m feeling good, and right now I will try to take my next match and play again good tennis.”

It’s been all Azarenka on the scoreboard for these two thus far, but the No.14 seed does not for one second underestimate the danger of facing a perpetually engaged fighter like Kerber. And she surely remembers that Kerber pushed her to the brink in a thrilling three-set encounter at the US Open last September. “It’s exciting,” said Azarenka of the upcoming tussle. “I always look forward to play against her. She gives me always tough matches. I prepare myself for a very tough match because she’s very solid, very consistent, and an amazing fighter. I have to play my best game to beat her, for sure.”

Pick: Azarenka in three

Zhang Shuai (CHN #133) vs. Johanna Konta (GBR # 47)
Head-to-head: Tied, 1-1
Key Stat: Zhang is the first qualifier to reach the quarterfinals at the Australian Open since 1990.

Tear up your predictions, crack open your WTA media guides, and get ready for some crazy emotions, because Day 10’s second quarterfinal features a pair of relatively unknown talents who have already made history in Melbourne. Johanna Konta became Great Britain’s first Grand Slam quarterfinalist in 33 years when she defeated Ekaterina Makarova in the round of 16. Nowhere near the Top 100 at this time last year, Konta has reached the second week of the last two majors and is projected to reach the Top 30 if she reaches the semifinals. But standing in her way will be China’s suddenly surging Zhang Shuai. The 27-year-old was 0-14 at majors prior to qualifying for this year’s Australian Open, but she’s racked up four wins—including a first-round upset of No.2-seeded Simona Halep—to reach the quarterfinals. Can Zhang possibly keep this dream run going? Or is Konta’s ascension set to continue?

Buoyed by her improbable run, Zhang is starting to believe that a deeper run is her destiny. “This time feeling like maybe God will bless me,” an elated Zhang told reporters of her eight-year wait for Grand Slam success. “If I can wait for long time, eight years, I can one time win a lot of matches at a Grand Slam.” Though also thrilled with her recent rise, Konta is less surprised that her time has come. “I’ve always said I do not believe in kind of a light switch moment,” she told reporters. “Everything happens for a reason. My journey has been the way it has been for a reason. That’s to accumulate the experiences that I’ve had. I cannot give you a moment where I said, Oh, yeah, that’s where it started, because it’s been ongoing ever since I started playing.”

Pick: Konta in three

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Semifinal Day Down Under

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Serena Williams will look to maintain her perfect record in Australian Open semifinals, while Angelique Kerber will bid for a long awaited trip to her first major final on Thursday in Melbourne. It’s semifinal day Down Under, and here’s a preview of what’s on tap.

Thursday, Day 11

[1] Serena Williams (USA #1) vs. [4] Agnieszka Radwanska (POL # 4)
Williams leads, 8-0
Key Stat: Radwanska comes into the semifinals riding a 13-match winning streak.

Agnieszka Radwanska enters Thursday’s semifinal with world No.1 Serena Williams as the WTA’s hottest player. She’s won 13 straight matches dating back to her title run at the WTA Finals last year, and the 26-year-old Pole is the only semifinalist to have already claimed a title this season. Even six-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams has been impressed by Radwanska’s form. “She’s been playing really well towards the end of the year, and already this year she’s been very consistent,” Williams said after reaching the semifinals with a straight-sets victory over Maria Sharapova on Tuesday. “She presents a completely different game, an extremely exciting game. So I think it will be a long match and it will be a good match to see where I am.”

Radwanska may be in scorching form, but nobody in Australian Open history has achieved more success than Williams from the semifinals on. The 21-time major champion has won the title all six times she’s reached the semifinals in Melbourne, and her overall career record in Grand Slam semifinals is an otherworldly 25-4. So what can Radwanska do to give herself a chance to create a stirring upset against arguably the greatest big match player of all time? It’s a question that many elite talents have pondered and failed to adequately answer. The matchup certainly favors Williams, who will look to take advantage of a huge power advantage by attacking the vulnerable second serve of Radwanska. The Pole will have to make first serves, and use her cleverness and variation to keep Williams from getting her rhythm. Any way you slice it it’s a tough ask for Radwanska, but her current form and the fact that she’s faced Williams in big matches before should help her in the tougher moments.

Pick: Williams in two

[7] Angelique Kerber (GER #6) vs. Johanna Konta (GBR #47)
Head-to-head: First meeting
Key Stat: Konta is Great Britain’s first Grand Slam semifinalist since 1983.

Great Britain’s Johanna Konta is celebrating her first appearance in the main draw of the Australian Open in style—with a trip to the semifinals. After taking down China’s Zhang Shuai in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, the Eastbourne resident has now won eight of her last nine Grand Slam matches. That in itself is impressive but when one takes into account the fact that Konta owned a career record of 1-7 in Grand Slam play before the streak started, it becomes evident just how vastly improved Konta has become in such a short time. A poised and cerebral player with weapons on both wings, Konta has risen 100 spots in the rankings since this time last year, thanks to an improved forehand and a newfound faith in her ability to tough out tight matches.

The opposite is true of Konta’s semifinal opponent, Germany’s Angelique Kerber. While Konta has been a rapid riser, Kerber has been a tried-and-true elite force on tour, and one who has been knocking on the door at Grand Slams ever since she had her breakout at the 2011 US Open. Kerber snapped a personal six-match losing streak to Victoria Azarenka on Day 10, playing courageous tennis and wreaking havoc on the speedy Belarusian with her flat, powerful backhand to clinch a spot in the last four at a major for the third time. Konta and Kerber have never met at the tour-level, but Konta has seen her share of the fit and ferocious Kerber and knows of the challenge that awaits. “She’s just an incredibly good player,” Konta said. “She’s an amazing competitor. She’s showed time and time again over the last numerous years. I’m going to go out there really enjoy it and enjoy the battle and hopefully play a good level and give the crowd a good match.”

Pick: Kerber in three

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Insider Podcast: Pica Power Goes Gold

  • Posted: Jan 01, 1970

Monica Puig cemented her status as Puerto Rico’s favorite daughter by becoming her country’s first gold medalist in any sport on Satuday at the Olympic tennis event. Upsetting World No.2 Angelique Kerber in the final, Puig showed off the potential first exhibited back in early 2013, when she pushed the German to a third set tie-break at the Brisbane International.

Hear more from Puig as she adjusts to life after gold and how she hopes to take this Olympic sized achievement back onto the WTA circuit on this Dropshot edition of the WTA Insider Podcast:

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn or on any podcast app of your choice to ensure you never miss an episode when they go live. Reviews are always helpful, so if you like what you’ve heard so far, leave us one. You can also get new episode alerts by following us on Twitter @WTA_Insider.

Follow @WTA_Insider

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