WTA

Barty breezes into last 16 but Kenin, Bencic and Mertens out as seeds scatter in Charleston

By Sports Desk April 07, 2021

Ash Barty won her first match on clay since reigning supreme at the 2019 French Open as the world number one rolled into the Volvo Car Open round of 16.

Barty – who last featured in a clay-court match en route to Roland Garros glory almost two years ago amid the coronavirus pandemic – made light work of Misaki Doi 6-2 6-1.

Miami Open champion last week, top seed Barty continued where she left off at the WTA 500 event on Wednesday, closing out proceedings in just over an hour in Charleston.

"I had to use it as an opportunity to try and build some comfort," Barty said. "I think having a couple days between Miami and playing this first match was important, to have my body rest, but to also try and prepare to change surfaces. It was a very quick turnaround, but I felt great out there tonight."

Barty – who now boasts a 15-2 win-loss record in 2021 – will next face Shelby Rogers after she outlasted 13th seed Amanda Anisimova 1-6 7-5 6-4.

As for second seed Sofia Kenin, the 2020 Australian Open champion slumped to a shock 4-6 6-3 6-4 defeat against Lauren Davis midweek.

World number four Kenin – runner-up at last year's French Open – eased to the first set but fellow American Davis, ranked 79th in the world, changed tactics to fine effect.

"I was a bit uncomfortable so I just really dug deep and really started to think about how to beat her and I found that heavy deep balls were not her favourite," the 27-year-old Davis said.

"Being on clay, the ball bounces high, pushing girls back, so it's very effective."

Kenin took a medical timeout at 3-0 down in the deciding set but, despite reeling off the next three games, she was unable to see Davis off as her 2021 woes continue.

Davis now heads into another all-American clash with teenage sensation Coco Gauff – who came from 1-3 down in the third to defeat Liudmila Samsonova 4-6 6-1 6-4 in an absorbing two-hour contest.

Belinda Bencic – the fifth seed – crashed out as Paula Badosa claimed the first top-20 win of her career following a 6-2 6-7 (2-7) 6-1 success.

Badosa will face Caty McNally in the last 16 after the 19-year-old American beat Anastasija Sevastova 7-6 (7-3) 2-6 6-4.

Seventh seed Elise Mertens was another big name to depart as Alize Cornet prevailed 7-5 6-3, although 15th seed Veronika Kudermetova and 12th seed Ons Jabeur progressed in with the minimum of fuss.

Former US Open champion Sloane Stephens, meanwhile, topped eighth seed Madison Keys 6-4 6-4.

Seeds were even more vulnerable at the Copa Colsanitas in Bogata, including the top-seeded Saisai Zheng who was dispatched 6-4 6-1 by Stefanie Voegele.

Zheng's compatriot Yafan Wang, seeded eighth, went down 6-3 6-3 to Viktoriya Tomova.

Arantxa Rus and Jasmine Paolini, the third and sixth seeds respectively, lost in three to Spanish duo Nuria Parrizas Diaz and Lara Arruabarrena.

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    Dan Evans produced a stunning victory over Novak Djokovic at the Monte Carlo Masters, revealing the world number one had irritated him before the match even began.

    A 6-4 7-5 victory for 33rd-ranked Evans in his first career clash with Djokovic carried the Briton through to his first Masters 1000 quarter-final and inflicted a first defeat of 2021 on his opponent.

    The seeds of the upset were planted before the players hit the court, Evans later revealed, with the 30-year-old having been irked at having to wait for Djokovic in the locker room.

    Top seed Djokovic was playing his first tournament since winning the Australian Open in February, for his 18th grand slam title, and he found it tough against a player who has previously enjoyed little success on clay.

    "I thought I did a good job to get out of my service games. He had so many break points but didn't take them, so I was a little lucky there," Evans told Amazon Prime.

    "I ran around the first second serve I got, to tell him I'm not going to just stand back and rally, I'm going to try to hit his second serve a little, and I got a few doubles out there."

    Djokovic served four double faults, with Evans setting the tone for the match by surging 3-0 ahead early in the opening set.

    "He kept me waiting at the start of the match in the changing rooms a little bit, so it was a little annoying," Evans said. "I was ready to go from that, so that got me a little extra fired up."

    Rather than being intimidated by the presence of Djokovic on the other side of the net, Evans indicated he treated the Serbian like just another opponent, there to be beaten.

    "That's why we roll the balls out, it's one against one and we've got to see who wins," Evans said.

    "He gave me some cheap ones today which he never normally does, so I was a little lucky there, but I'm just really happy with coming through."

    Evans' win was hailed by former British number one Tim Henman, who said: "He played fantastic tennis. In difficult conditions, he was the one that really dealt with it so well.

    "Those first three games where he got up a double break, that probably changed his mindset. It increased his belief and Djokovic was frustrated, but in so many critical moments it was Evans who came up with the great tennis.

    "It's an unbelievable achievement. Evans has won so few matches on clay so to beat the world number one, it's an amazing win."

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    Following her third-round appearance at the Volvo Car Open, Charleston native Rogers moved through to the quarters of her second hometown tournament in as many weeks after easing past qualifier Claire Liu 6-2 6-2.

    "I think I was due for a couple of tame matches," said third seed Rogers, who lost to world number one Ash Barty at last week's Volvo Car Open. "I've had quite a few mental battles over the last couple of months, so it's been nice to just take care of business in straight sets, get in and get out."

    Next up for Rogers at the WTA 250 event is in-form Montenegrin opponent Danka Kovinic, who upstaged seventh seed Davis 6-1 1-6 6-3 on Wednesday.

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    Rafael Nadal's bid to win a 12th Monte Carlo Masters title got off to an emphatic start as the Spaniard swept Federico Delbonis aside after Novak Djokovic had also booked his passage to the third round.

    Nadal, 34, has won the competition more times than anyone else in its history and looked in good shape as he returned to the court for the first time since losing to Stefano Tsitsipas in the Australian Open quarter-finals on February 17.

    He needed just 81 minutes to get past the Argentinian qualifier 6-1 6-2 as he improved his record in the tournament to 72-5, breaking Delbonis' serve five times and only dropping his own once.

    He is not getting carried away, however, with Grigor Dimitrov likely to provide a sterner test in the next round after beating Jeremy Chardy 7-6 (7-3) 6-4.

    "It was solid match, I think. Of course, a very positive result. He's a good player on clay. [It was a] positive start for me," Nadal said in his post-match interview.

    "I think I just really played a solid match. Nothing unbelievable, but nothing wrong. Just a solid match, a positive start. I think I did what I had to do."

    On Dimitrov, Nadal added: "We've had some great matches. In Melbourne, of course... we played another great match in Beijing, another one in Shanghai. He's a good friend, a good guy, and a great player. It's going to be a tough test in my second round.

    "It's going to be his third. I need to be ready for it. I hope to be ready for it. I am just excited to play a tough match very early in the tournament."

    A little earlier in the day, world number one Djokovic was in a similarly unforgiving mood as he overcame the potentially tricky obstacle of Jannik Sinner, the Serbian and two-time Monte Carlo champion winning 6-4 6-2.

    Like Nadal, Djokovic was back in action for the first time since the Australian Open – which he won – and appeared fresh as he gave the promising young Italian something of a lesson in game management, reaching 10 matches unbeaten at the start of a season for the sixth time.

    "It feels great [to be back and] also playing in Monaco, where I reside," Djokovic said. "I have used this club as a training base for almost 15 years, so it feels like playing at home."

    Despite the rather commanding nature of his win, Djokovic was keen to pay tribute to the 19-year-old Sinner, adding: "It was a very good encounter. I thought it was a great first match [and] a big challenge for me. Jannik is in form. He played the final [in] Miami and has been playing well. I just hung in there today and managed to find the right shots and the right game at the right time.

    "He has got a lot of talent and he has proven that he is the future of our sport. Actually, he is already the present of our sport. He played a final [in an] ATP Masters 1000 [tournament] already. He is making big strides in professional tennis."

    Dan Evans awaits Djokovic after an impressive 6-4 6-1 win over Miami champion Hubert Hurkacz, while Alexander Zverez and Andrey Rublev – the fifth and sixth seeds – moved into the next round with respective straight-set victories over Lorenzo Sonego and Salvatore Caruso.

    There were mixed fortunes for the other two top-10 seeds in action on Wednesday, as Pablo Carreno-Busta defeated Karen Khachanov 6-2 6-3, but Diego Schwartzman was sent packing by Casper Ruud, the Norwegian winning 6-3 6-3.

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