WTA

Barty and Halep through to Stuttgart Open semi-finals

By Sports Desk April 23, 2021

World number one Ash Barty survived a scare to reach the semi-finals of the Stuttgart Open with a 2-6 6-1 7-5 win over Karolina Pliskova.

The Australian started slowly in the quarter-final of the WTA 500 tournament on Friday as Pliskova broke her serve twice in taking the first set, before Barty hit back with three breaks of her own to force a decider.

Barty was two points away from losing on five occasions as world number nine Pliskova served for the match at 5-4 in the final set.

But she broke the Czech's resolve eventually, sealing victory when Pliskova hit the ball long after a baseline rally.

The win was Barty's eighth consecutive victory over a top-10 opponent and she said in a media conference afterwards that facing top players in the world brings the best out of her.

"When you come up against top-10 opponents, you have to go to that level above to be able to compete. They force you to bring your best," Barty said.

"With a lot of the girls in the top 10, we've had plenty of matches that have gone either way, different experiences, so each time I love that challenge of testing myself against the best."

Barty will face Elina Svitolina in the semi-finals after she saved two match points to claim a 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 6-2 victory over Petra Kvitova.

In the other half of the draw, Simona Halep breezed through to the semi-finals with a 6-1 6-4 win over Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Halep clinically closed out the first set, and although Alexandrova showed more fight in the second, the world number three did not allow her a route back into the match.

Halep will face Aryna Sabalenka following the Belarusian's 7-5 4-6 6-1 win over Anett Kontaveit.

In the Istanbul Cup, top seed Elise Mertens secured her place in the semi-finals with a 6-4 6-4 win over Katerina Siniakova.

Mertens will face Veronika Kudermetova who fought back from a set down to clinch a 2-6 6-3 6-3 win over Ana Bogdan.

The other semi-final will see Sorana Cirstea play Marta Kostyuk. Cirstea progressed after Fiona Ferro, trailing 6-4, retired through injury while Kostyuk beat Ana Konjuh 7-5 4-6 6-3.

Related items

  • Tokyo Olympics: Medvedev hits out at 'joke' changeover times as Djokovic coasts through Tokyo Olympics: Medvedev hits out at 'joke' changeover times as Djokovic coasts through

    Daniil Medvedev says it is a "joke" that players do not have longer at changeovers but will not "cry about the heat" after coming through his Tokyo 2020 opener, while Novak Djokovic started at a canter as he looks to add the next step of a Golden Slam.

    Representing the Russian Olympic Committee, Medvedev appeared fatigued at times in his 6-4 7-6 (10-8) triumph over Kazakhstan's Alexander Bublik at the Ariake Tennis Park.

    The conditions in the Japanese capital were sweltering on Saturday but Novak Djokovic was able to keep his cool in coasting to a 6-2 6-2 win against Hugo Dellien.

    MEDVEDEV CALLS FOR MORE TIME

    Medvedev, who saved three of four break points and now has a 3-0 head-to-head record over Bublik, was pretty pointed about what he feels should be done about the heat.

    "Like they do in Mexico, the matches maybe should start at six (pm) because the heat actually gets much, much lighter. We all try to practise at six," said Olympics debutant Medvedev, who next plays Sumit Nagal.

    "The fact that we have only one minute between changeovers is a joke. If you ask, let's say 200 tennis players that are here, I think 195 will tell you that one minute is a joke. It should be 1:30.

    "But you have to play, that's the Olympics, you go for the medal. You're not here to cry about the heat. It was really tough for both of us. We talked about this after the match on the court. It was unbelievably hot. But you need to get through it."

    Fellow Russian athlete Aslan Karatsev (11) defeated Tommy Paul 6-3 6-2 to set up a meeting with Jeremy Chardy, while Lorenzo Sonego (13), Ugo Humbert (14), Fabio Fognini (15) and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (16) all progressed.

    DJOKOVIC UP AND RUNNING

    Since winning bronze in Beijing 13 years ago, Djokovic has not had the best of luck at the Olympics – losing in 2012 and 2016 to Juan Martin del Potro on both occasions.

    But with a host of big hitters from the ATP absent – including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – Djokovic is the overwhelming favourite in Tokyo.

    Only Steffi Graf in 1988 from either the WTA or ATP Tour has ever completed a sweep of all four slams and an Olympic gold in a calendar year, and Djokovic needs Olympic gold and victory at the US Open to match the feat.

    He needed just 61 minutes here to beat Dellien of Bolivia.

    MURRAY SCORES UPSET DOUBLES WIN

    Andy Murray is the two-time defending men's singles champion in Tokyo, but struggles with injuries mean it would take a herculean effort to make it three in a row.

    But he is also representing Great Britain in the doubles and together with Joe Salisbury upset French second seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 6-3 6-2 in their first time competing with one another.

    Murray is not looking too far ahead, though, saying: "You take one match at a time, you know, so a lot of the players here are really motivated to play for their country. 

    "This is such a rare opportunity for all of us and I think we all want to do well. So, yeah, just take it one match at a time."

  • Tokyo Olympics Recap: Pressure is there even if crowds are not Tokyo Olympics Recap: Pressure is there even if crowds are not

    Nina Christen of Switzerland finished 16th in the 10-metre air rifle at the Rio Olympics, but she became a footnote to history five years later as the first athlete to secure a medal at Tokyo 2020.

    The 27-year-old locked up the bronze medal several minutes before China's Yang Qian beat Anastasiia Galashina of the Russian Olympic Committee to take gold in the first medal event of the Games.

    As soon as she was eliminated from contention for the final two, Christen flashed a smile and waved, knowing she had at least won a spot on the podium this time – no small feat on this stage.

    After the first medal ceremony of the Tokyo Games, she spoke about the pressure as the competition entered the final rounds.

    "You just try to not reach your head out for the medal before you have the medal," Christen said. "That is the worst thing you could do. Having in your mind, 'Oh I could win a medal, or I could be eighth which would be a failure'.

    "So you just try not to think about both of them, you just try and think about what your job is like breathing, holding, aiming, balance, triggering, and then follow through.

    "It helps to not think about what is behind you and obviously there are a lot of cameras and a lot of people. And it would be even more if COVID would not have hit. So yeah that is the thing you have to do, otherwise you would just crack."

     

    Sixth seed Swiatek rolls in tennis opener

    Two seeded players enjoyed easy victories in the women's singles draw as play began at the Ariake Tennis Park.

    Sixth-seeded Iga Swiatek of Poland, the 2020 French Open champion, cruised past Germany's Mona Barthel 6-2 6-2 to open her first Olympics.

    Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 11th seed representing the Russian Olympic Committee, had an even easier time in a 6-0 6-1 rout of Italy's Sara Errani.

    Pavlyuchenkova will face Germany's Anna-Lena Friedsam, who upset Great Britain's Heather Watson 7-6 6-3 in another early match.

    In doubles, there was an eye-catching result for Britain's Andy Murray and Joe Salisbury, who took out French second seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, scoring a 6-3 6-2 victory.

     

    Men's gymnastics gets under way

    Nikita Nagornyy turned in the strongest showing in the opening group as men's gymnastics got under way.

    Nagornyy, who won the all-around at the 2019 World Championships and was part of Russia's silver medal-winning team at Rio 2016, posted an 87.897 to lead subdivision one, which included gymnasts from the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), China, Ukraine and Spain along with individuals from other nations.

    But his showing was not enough to put the Russians on top, as China earned the top score in the group with a 262.061 to the ROC's 261.945. The top eight ranked teams qualify for the team final, with two subdivisions still to compete Saturday.

    "I don't think our team was really good today, but we made our best effort," Nagronyy said. "We have a lot to do."

     

    Brazilians start strongly on the beach

    Brazil's two returning beach volleyball medallists are off to a strong start five years later.

    Alison Cerutti won gold in Rio and is teamed with new partner Alvaro Morais Filho for Tokyo. They won their opening match 2-0 against Argentina's Nicolas Capogrosso and Julian Amado Azaad.

    On the women's side, Rio silver medallist Agatha Bednarczuk, also with a new partner in Eduarda Santos Lisboa, won by the same score against Ana Gallay and Fernanda Pereyra of Argentina.

    While she was happy to advance, Agatha found the difference between Rio's raucous crowds and Tokyo's COVID-driven quiet jarring.

    "It's so different. In Brazil we have the biggest support there. Many, many people cheering for us, and here, it's silence," she said.

    "Here we need to put our emotion (aside) because we don't receive the emotion from the people. For me, this is very important because I like to play with emotions."

  • Gaston saves four match points to reach Gstaad semis with top seed Ruud Gaston saves four match points to reach Gstaad semis with top seed Ruud

    Hugo Gaston showed admirable spirit as the young Frenchman saved four match points in a gripping tie-break against Cristian Garin en route to reaching his first ATP Tour semi-final.

    Garin, the fourth seed, responded impressively to going a set down and then got to match point four times in their third-set tie-break, but he could not hold his nerve and Gaston got the job done 6-4 1-6 7-6 (13-11).

    The Chilean was on the back foot right from the start Gaston broke him in the first game, and although Garin did hit back to make it 3-3, his opponent quickly had the advantage again and went on to seal the first set.

    Garin's response was emphatic and clinical, dropping just three points on his serve and taking both of the break points that came his way to level the match.

    The pair could not be separated in a back-and-forth third set, but Garin was the first to get match point at 6-5 in the tie-break – they would trade another six equally between them before Gaston finally prevailed at 13-11, leaving the 20-year-old satisfied.

    "I am very happy to be in my first [ATP Tour] semi-final," Gaston said after.

    "It was a great fight. It was a really long match. I always tried to play my game, and it is a good win for me. I hope I can continue like that."

    Up next for Gaston will be Laslo Djere after he saw off Arthur Rinderknech 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-4, while Casper Ruud – the highest seed remaining – is also into the final four.

    The Norwegian was victorious at the Swedish Open last week, his second title of the year, and dispatched Benoit Paire on Friday to reach another semi.

    Ruud won 6-2 5-7 6-3 in just under two hours and will face Vit Kopriva, a qualifier, who secured his first semi-final appearance thanks to a stunning 6-1 6-0 win over Mikael Ymer.

    At the Croatia Open in Umag, top seed Albert Ramos-Vinolas cruised into the last four with a straightforward 6-2 6-1 defeat of Stefano Travaglia, setting up a meeting with either Filip Krajinovic or Carlos Alcaraz.

    The other semi will be contested between Richard Gasquet and Daniel Altmaier, who produced something of a shock by ousting second seed Dusan Lajovic 6-2 6-4.

    The veteran Frenchman came through against Damir Dzumhur 6-3 7-6 (9-7), clinching the second set at the fourth opportunity.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.