Ons Jabeur continued her fine start to 2020 with the biggest win of her career as she stunned third seed Karolina Pliskova at the Qatar Open.

The Tunisian has surged to a career-high ranking of 44 having made history by reaching the quarter-finals of the Australian Open in January.

What it is rapidly developing into a breakthrough year saw another high point on Wednesday as she emerged victorious from a gruelling three-set battle with third seed Pliskova.

Kiki Bertens was another to suffer a surprise loss as Zheng Saisai came from a set down to see off the seventh seed.

Belinda Bencic, Petra Kvitova and Aryna Sabalenka all progressed, while world number one Ashleigh Barty was one of two players to receive a walkover into the quarter-finals, where she will meet Garbine Muguruza.

JABEUR MAKES MORE HISTORY

It has already been an impressive year for Jabeur.

She added another achievement to an increasingly impressive CV by progressing to the last eight in Doha.

Having lost to Simona Halep in a third-set tie-break in Dubai, Jabeur made sure to finish the job against Pliskova, hitting 33 winners to prevail 6-4 3-6 6-3 in a thriller and knock out the 2017 champion.


ZHENG BATTLES BACK

Few would have predicted Bertens succumbing to Zheng considering she dropped just one set en route to the St. Petersburg Open title earlier this month.

There appeared little sign of a shock when Bertens took the first set, but Zheng superbly battled back to claim a 3-6 6-3 6-4 win after two hours and 10 minutes.

Eighth seed Kvitova came through a frenetic contest with Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 5-7 6-1, while Bencic and Sabalenka earned straight-sets victories over Yulia Putintseva and Maria Sakkari.

MUGURUZA SETS UP BARTY CLASH

Though she was unable to overcome Sofia Kenin in the Australian Open final, Muguruza has been a player revitalised in 2020.

A clash with rising star Dayana Yastremska presented a significant hurdle, but she cleared it in relatively routine fashion.

Despite hitting only two winners, Muguruza capitalised on 29 unforced errors from Yastremska as the two-time grand slam champion wrapped up a 6-2 6-4 success.

Barty, whose meeting with Elena Rybakina was cancelled after the Kazakh withdrew with an abductor strain, is next for Muguruza. Svetlana Kuznetsova, meanwhile, progressed as Amanda Anisimova pulled out because of illness.

Ash Barty swept into the last 16 of the Qatar Open on Tuesday with a straight-sets dismantling of Laura Siegemund.

In her first match since the Australian Open, world number one Barty triumphed 6-3 6-2 in her opening match at the WTA Premier event.

Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin endured another difficult day, though, losing to 19-year-old Dayana Yastremska, while defending champion Elise Mertens also bowed out.

Karolina Pliskova, Belinda Bencic and Petra Kvitova all advanced, while Melbourne runner-up Garbine Muguruza was in imperious form as she dispatched Ajla Tomljanovic for the loss of just three games.

There were also wins for Saisai Zheng over Vera Zvonareva, Ons Jabeur against Jennifer Brady, Maria Sakkari over Tereza Martincova and Svetlana Kuznetsova against Iga Swiatek.

BARTY BLASTS OUT OF THE BLOCKS

Playing for the first time since losing to Kenin in the Australian Open semi-finals, Barty produced a disciplined performance to beat Siegemund in 73 minutes.

Barty hit 19 winners to 16 unforced errors but admitted she lost focus at some key moments.

"Happy overall to be able to switch on when I really needed to. Disappointing to have a few lapses in concentration but also a credit to my opponent, she came up with some really good stuff in runs to be able to break me a few times," she said.

Barty will face Elena Rybakina next after she battled to beat Alison Van Uytvanck 5-7 6-2 7-6 (10-8).

KENIN WOES CONTINUE

Kenin has now lost three times since lifting the first grand slam singles title of the season, the American slumping to a 6-3 7-6 (7-4) loss to Yastremska.

"It's really frustrating," she said. "Obviously coming off of Melbourne where I felt I was playing the best tennis of my life coming down to playing, not the worst tennis, but not playing the tennis I want to be playing."

Yastremska will now meet Muguruza, who wasted little time in beating Tomljanovic 6-1 6-2.

 

PLISKOVA CHARGES ON AS SEEDS PROGRESS

Pliskova was beaten in the quarter-finals in Dubai by Rybakina but looks determined to go the distance in Doha, producing an accomplished performance to oust Bernarda Pera 6-3 6-0.

Fourth seed Bencic was given a tougher time by Veronika Kudermetova before claiming a 6-4 4-6 7-6 (7-4) win that took more than two and a half hours.

Aryna Sabalenka edged a tight encounter with Anett Kontaveit 7-5 2-6 7-5, while Kvitova ended the challenge of Carla Suarez Navarro 4-6 6-3 6-0.

Defending champion Mertens is out, though, falling to Yulia Putintseva 4-6 6-3 6-2.

Top seed Simona Halep saved a match point in a gripping battle with Ons Jabeur before sealing her place in the quarter-finals of the Dubai Tennis Championships.

Halep was on the brink of a surprise defeat to the in-form world number 45, but hung in there to win a thriller 1-6 6-2 7-6 (9-7) on Wednesday.

The two-time grand slam champion and Jabeur were given great backing from passionate Romanian and Tunisian supporters in a pulsating contest that swung one way and the other.

Halep appeared destined to complete the turnaround with ease when she led 3-0 in the final set, but the tenacious Jabeur was relishing the battle and showed great spirit to take the upper hand at 6-5.

The unseeded Jabeur was broken to love when serving for the match, though, and a double-fault gifted 2015 champion Halep a 4-2 lead in the tie-break, yet there was more drama to come.

Jabeur fended off three match points to earn one of her own, but Halep showed her grit to win the next two points before her gutsy opponent drilled a forehand long to end a tense two-hour contest.

Halep will face Aryna Sabalenka in the last eight after the seventh seed defeated Elise Mertens 6-4 6-3.

Australian Open runner-up Garbine Muguruza advanced with a hard-fought Veronika Kudermetova, winning 7-5 4-6 6-4 two days after knocking out the returning Kim Clijsters.

Elena Rybakina, a three-time finalist this year, got the better of Katerina Siniakova for the second successive week, a 6-3, 6-3 victory setting up a meeting with Karolina Pliskova.

Second seed Pliskova lost just three games in emphatic defeat of Kristina Mladenovic, while Petra Martic, Jennifer Brady and Anett Kontaveit were also victorious.

Second seed Karolina Pliskova and fifth seed Elina Svitolina were high-profile casualties in the third round of the Australian Open on Saturday.

Pliskova fell to a straight-sets defeat to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Svitolina was soundly beaten by two-time grand slam champion Garbine Muguruza.

Belinda Bencic and Donna Vekic were also sent packing, losing to Anett Kontaveit and Iga Swiatek respectively.

There was no sign of a slip-up from former world number one Simona Halep, however, as she made serene progress to the next round by easing past Yulia Putintseva.

 

PLISKOVA, SVITOLINA CRASH OUT

After defending champion Naomi Osaka and 23-time grand slam winner Serena Williams were eliminated on Friday, Pliskova joined the star duo in dropping out of the tournament.

Pliskova went down 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-3) to 30th seed Pavlyuchenkova in the first match on Rod Laver Arena on Saturday.

"I think she was playing very well. Maybe the best she played against me so far in the last couple matches," Pliskova told reporters. "But let's say I was [at] about 40 per cent of my game, so of course then she can feel so much better if I just don't play enough [of] what I can play. 

"That's how it is. I think especially [in] the important moments she always served well so I had a couple chances here and there. But I think she just played better than me."

Svitolina did not fare much better as she lost to Muguruza in 67 minutes, the Spaniard - now ranked 32 in the world - hitting 31 winners to advance 6-1 6-2.

 

BENCIC, VEKIC SENT PACKING

It was another tough day for seeds as Bencic (6) and Vekic (19) failed to progress beyond the third round in Melbourne.

US Open semi-finalist Bencic was swept aside in just 49 minutes, humbled 6-0 6-1 by 28th seed Kontaveit on Margaret Court Arena.

"I think every grand slam there are seeded players losing, so I think this grand slam was even the best because no top-10 player lost in first round," she said in a news conference. "It's the same at every grand slam. There are upsets, and I think it's normal, because it's tennis, and tennis is very unpredictable."

Kontaveit will face Swiatek after the 18-year-old stunned Vekic 7-5 6-3.

 

HALEP, KERBER MOVE ON

Halep thwarted in-form Putintseva 6-1 6-4 to move through to the second week of the slam for a third consecutive year.

Fourth seed Halep - runner-up in Melbourne two years ago - needed one hour, 18 minutes to progress to the fourth round.

Away from Rod Laver Arena, 2016 champion Angelique Kerber ground out a 6-2 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 victory over Italian Camila Giorgi.

Kerber was pushed but the three-time major winner clinched a spot in the fourth round for the fifth successive season after two hours, eight minutes.

 

MERTENS AND BERTENS ADVANCE

Next up for Halep is 16th seed Elise Mertens, who required three sets to overcome CiCi Bellis.

Mertens was two points from victory in the second set after taking a 5-4 lead in the tiebreak but failed to close it out. However, she managed to keep her run alive by reeling off the next six games in succession.

The 2018 semi-finalist breezed through the final set to wrap up a 6-1 6-7 (5-7) 6-0 victory in just under two hours.

Joining Mertens in the next round was Dutch ninth seed Kiki Bertens, who made the second week of the Australian Open for the first time.

Bertens claimed a 6-2 7-6 (7-3) victory over Zarina Diyas and has a meeting with Svitolina's conqueror Muguruza to look forward to.

Karolina Pliskova became the latest high-profile casualty at the Australian Open, the second seed stunned by Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets.  

Defending champion Naomi Osaka and 23-time grand slam winner Serena Williams crashed out at Melbourne Park on Friday.

Pliskova – another women's singles contender – joined the star duo in departing the year's opening slam following Saturday's 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-3) defeat to 30th seed and two-time quarter-finalist Pavlyuchenkova.

A semi-finalist last year, Pliskova had matched or improved her best results at the Australian Open year-on-year since debuting in 2013.

However, the 2016 US Open runner-up was unable to build on her performances at Melbourne Park, where she succumbed to the aggressive Pavlyuchenkova in a gruelling encounter on Rod Laver Arena.

Pavlyuchenkova raced out to a 4-1 lead in the opening set, which was highlighted by a 30-point second game, before eventually prevailing in a tie-break after Pliskova rallied.

Pliskova, who finished with 35 winners and 29 unforced errors, recovered from a slow start in the second to force another tie-break but the Czech star was unable to send the match into a deciding set.

After tallying 51 winners and 43 unforced errors in two hours, 25 minutes, Pavlyuchenkova will face 2016 champion and three-time slam winner Angelique Kerber in the last 16.

Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova and Angelique Kerber claimed comfortable second-round wins at the Australian Open as Garbine Muguruza survived a scare on Thursday.

It was a good day for the women's seeds at Melbourne Park, as 10 of the 12 in action moved into the third round.

Halep, Pliskova and Kerber were among them, while the unseeded Muguruza also progressed.

The top 10 seeds remain alive in the women's draw, with a few familiar faces shaping as contenders once more.

 

HALEP, PLISKOVA AND KERBER PROGRESS

A runner-up in Melbourne in 2018, fourth seed Halep was largely untroubled in a 6-2 6-4 win over British qualifier Harriet Dart.

The Romanian managed five breaks of serve and will meet Yulia Putintseva, who edged last year's semi-finalist Danielle Collins, scoring a 6-4 2-6 7-5 win against the 26th seed.

Pliskova has reached at least the quarter-finals at the past three Australian Opens and the Czech second seed looks like a challenger.

She had few problems in a 6-3 6-3 victory over Laura Siegemund on Rod Laver Arena.

Pliskova will next face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova after the Russian 30th seed battled past Taylor Townsend 7-5 7-6 (7-1).

Kerber, the 2016 champion, was untroubled by Australian wildcard Priscilla Hon in a 6-3 6-2 win.

MUGURUZA FIGHTS THROUGH

Two-time grand slam champion Muguruza was pushed in a 6-3 3-6 6-3 win over Ajla Tomljanovic.

Muguruza mixed 34 winners with 39 unforced errors, but an even bigger test awaits in the third round.

FIfth seed Elina Svitolina set up a meeting with Muguruza by overcoming American Lauren Davis 6-2 7-6 (8-6).

That late-night clash on Margaret Court Arena became dramatic in the second set as Svitolina failed to seize a chance to serve for the match, Davis forcing the tense tie-break.

 

BENCIC, VEKIC CONTINUE RUNS

Coming off a semi-final appearance at the US Open last year, Belinda Bencic overcame former French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko 7-5 7-5.

The Swiss star will meet Anett Kontaveit, who recorded a 6-2 4-6 6-1 win over Sara Sorribes Tormo.

Donna Vekic, the 19th seed, has cruised through her opening two matches after brushing past Alize Cornet 6-4 6-2.

Meanwhile, Dutch ninth seed Kiki Bertens was too good for Australian wildcard Arina Rodionova 6-3 7-5.

Karolina Muchova, the 20th-seeded Czech, was well beaten by CiCi Bellis 6-4 6-4.

Twenty-year-old American Bellis is playing her first grand slam in two years after injury kept her out of action for 18 months.

Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova came through their first-round matches at the Australian Open, as Maria Sharapova suffered an early exit in the women's singles.

Fourth seed Halep was handed a testing opener against Jennifer Brady, who had beaten Ash Barty at the Brisbane International this month.

But the Romanian prevailed 7-6 (7-5) 6-1 in one hour and 36 minutes to join home hope Barty, defending champion Naomi Osaka and tournament favourite Serena Williams in round two.

An up-and-down first set was crucial, as Halep twice recovered from a break down and saved three set points while Brady was serving at 6-5.

Halep found a way to force a tie-break and then edged it 7-5 before running away with the contest in the second set.

Wimbledon champion Halep also had to overcome a first-set fall that required the trainer to check on her wrist and joked she had also stumbled in her first match of the 2018 tournament, when she made it all the way to the final.

"In 2018 it was the same, probably I can repeat that!" said Halep.

"I don't know why in the first round always I fall down. Maybe it's a good sign but it's too far to think about that.

"My wrist is pretty painful. I need to chill and recover for the second round."

Second seed Pliskova earned a 6-1 7-5 victory over Kristina Mladenovic, losing serve just once in the 87-minute battle. The Czech faces Laura Siegemund next, while Halep will take on Harriet Dart.


TOP 10 ALL THROUGH AS SHARAPOVA'S WOES CONTINUE

Sharapova suffered her third consecutive loss in the first round of a grand slam following a 6-3 6-4 defeat against 19th seed Donna Vekic as the former world number one hit 31 unforced errors.

A first-round casualty at Wimbledon and the US Open, Sharapova - who has been struggling for form and fitness - crashed out in the first round of the Australian Open for the first time since 2010.

Sixth seed Belinda Bencic won 6-3 7-5 against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, while Madison Keys was a 6-3 6-1 victor against Daria Kasatkina, as all of the top 10 seeds moved safely into round two.

Elina Svitolina claimed a 6-4 7-5 victory in her match against Katie Boulter, while former grand slam champions Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza were winners against Elisabetta Cocciaretto and Shelby Rogers respectively. Muguruza won by an unusual 0-6 6-1 6-0 scoreline.


KONTA AND VONDROUSOVA BOW OUT

Johanna Konta, Marketa Vondrousova, Amanda Anisimova and Anastasija Sevastova were the seeds to fall on day two.

An Australian Open semi-finalist in 2016, British 12th seed Konta suffered a 6-4 6-2 loss to Ons Jabeur.

On the comeback trail following a tendinitis-related problem in her right knee, which forced her to withdraw from Brisbane and Adelaide, Konta was only making her second appearance since losing in the US Open quarter-finals last year.

Konta said: "Ultimately the main thing was to start playing again, and I am. How I physically felt out there is obviously a massive tick for me compared to where I was in September. Before Brisbane I had been out for almost four-and-a-half months."

Czech Vondrousova, the 15th seed and French Open finalist last year, lost in three sets to Russian veteran Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Another rising star fell as 18-year-old American Anisimova lost out in a final set to Zarina Diyas, while home hope Ajla Tomljanovic emphatically accounted for Sevastova with a 6-1 6-1 triumph to book a round-two meeting with Muguruza.

Venus Williams' clash with Coco Gauff headlines the Australian Open first round, but former champion Stan Wawrinka also faces an early test in Melbourne.

Williams and Gauff will meet for the second time in what is a blockbuster opening-round encounter.

But there are several intriguing clashes in the first round at the year's first grand slam and we take a look at six of the best.

 

Damir Dzumhur v Stan Wawrinka [15]

Wawrinka would have preferred a friendlier draw than a man he has lost to in two of their three meetings. The Swiss 2014 champion was resurgent last year, while Dzumhur has been unable to replicate the form of his breakout season in 2017. Still, the Bosnian beat Wawrinka in three sets on clay in Geneva last year so the three-time grand slam champion will have to be near his best.

Daniil Medvedev [4] v Frances Tiafoe

Tiafoe thrilled during a run to the quarter-finals in Melbourne last year, but that would prove to be the high point of his 2019. The American has made a slow start to 2020 with first-round losses in Doha and Auckland, but was competitive against Medvedev in a 6-2 7-5 loss in Washington last year. After a spectacular 2019 that included reaching the US Open final, Medvedev shapes as the most likely to stop the 'Big Three', although he will need to get through a somewhat tricky opener first.

Sam Querrey v Borna Coric [25]

While he has dropped off since 2017, Querrey will fancy his chances against Coric after the Croatian's difficult finish to last year. Coric finished 2019 with six straight losses and suffered two more at the ATP Cup, to go with a win over Dominic Thiem. After four consecutive first-round exits in Melbourne, Coric reached the fourth round last year, while Querrey has never been beyond the third round in Melbourne. Coric won their only previous meeting at the French Open in 2015.

Venus Williams v Coco Gauff

Arguably the pick of any first-round match, the 39-year-old Williams meets the 15-year-old Gauff once more. Gauff stunned Williams 6-4 6-4 at Wimbledon last year and her ranking then (313) compared to now (66) tells the story of how she finished 2019 as the teenager followed it up with a title win in Linz. Williams withdrew from Brisbane due to injury, making this a hugely tough task for the seven-time grand slam singles champion.

Kristina Mladenovic v Karolina Pliskova [2]

Pliskova has enjoyed Melbourne in recent years, reaching at least the quarter-finals in each of the past three, but was handed a tough start in 2020. The Czech is coming off a title win in Brisbane and that will give her much-needed confidence ahead of facing former world number 10 Mladenovic. The pair have split their previous four meetings, with Mladenovic winning the last of those in 2017.

Donna Vekic [19] v Maria Sharapova

A wildcard, Sharapova was always going to be the danger in the draw – and she landed alongside 19th seed Vekic. Vekic enjoyed a fine 2019 to rise into the world's top 20, while Sharapova battled injuries and has fallen to 145th in the rankings. Vekic should be the favourite to advance, but if five-time major winner Sharapova can find some form, the Russian is always a threat and last bowed out in the opening round in Melbourne in 2010.

Former world number one Serena Williams claimed her first WTA Tour title in three years after winning the Auckland Open on Sunday.

Not since winning the 2017 Australian Open had Williams clinched silverware – the 23-time grand slam champion a runner-up at Wimbledon (2018 and 2019) and the US Open (2018 and 2019), while she retired in the 2019 Rogers Cup final.

However, Williams ended her drought by defeating fellow American Jessica Pegula 6-3 6-4 in the women's final in New Zealand.

"It feels good. It's been a long time. I think you could see the relief on my face," Williams said during her on-court interview before announcing she will donate her prize money (and a dress from each of her matches) to the bushfire relief effort in Australia.

Williams was almost flawless against Pegula, stepping up her preparations for the upcoming Australian Open with two aces and just one break of serve to capture her 73rd WTA crown – a record stretching across four decades after winning her first in 1999.

After a sluggish start, which saw the top seed fall 3-1 behind in the opening set, Williams eventually found her range en route to the 38-year-old's first trophy as a mother.

After snapping a sequence of five defeats in finals since her 2017 triumph at the Australian Open, Williams will look to equal Margaret Court's record of 24 slam titles at Melbourne Park.

Meanwhile, defending champion and second seed Karolina Pliskova won the Brisbane International for a second straight year after outlasting Madison Keys in three sets.

Pliskova prevailed 6-4 4-6 7-5 over eighth seed Keys for her third victory at the WTA Premier event in Brisbane.

Serena Williams was in brilliant form to reach the Auckland Open final, while Karolina Pliskova saved a match point to beat Naomi Osaka in a thrilling Brisbane International semi.

Williams needed just 44 minutes to crush 18-year-old Amanda Anisimova 6-1 6-1 in their last four clash at the WTA International tournament in New Zealand.

The 23-time grand slam champion mixed 17 winners with six unforced errors and lost just nine points on serve. Williams served five aces and converted all five of her break points in a dominant display in the lead up to the year's first grand slam in Melbourne.

The American moved into her 98th WTA Tour final and will be aiming for a 73rd title but first since the 2017 Australian Open when she faces Jessica Pegula.

Pegula upset fifth seed Caroline Wozniacki 3-6 6-4 6-0 in their semi-final.

A two-time runner-up, Wozniacki – who will retire after the 2020 Australian Open – won just 10 points in the third set.

Wozniacki will contest the doubles final with Williams against Taylor Townsend and Asia Muhammad.

In Brisbane, Pliskova lost a first set on a tie-break in which she squandered two set points and saved four, and was staring down the barrel after Osaka broke for a 6-5 lead in the second.

However, Osaka's first serve on match point was overly tentative and a series of errors handed Pliskova the break back. The second seed took full advantage, winning the subsequent tie-break and taking the decider in comfortable fashion to defeat the reigning Australian Open champion 6-7 (10-12) 7-6 (7-3) 6-2.

Earlier, Madison Keys rallied past Petra Kvitova to clinch a 3-6 6-2 6-3 victory, meaning there will be no all-Czech final in Queensland.

At the Shenzhen Open, Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova clinched her maiden WTA Tour title with a 6-2 6-4 win over Elena Rybakina in the final.

Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki teamed up to reach the Auckland Classic doubles final after making the final four in the singles, while Naomi Osaka will challenge Karolina Pliskova for the number two ranking in Brisbane.

Williams and Wozniacki, playing as a pair for the first time, beat the top seeds in the quarter-finals and saved five set points in their opening set against Kirsten Flipkens and Alison Van Uytvanck before sealing a 7-6 (11-9) 6-2 victory to advance to the final.

They will play the winners of Saturday's all-American clash that sees Coco Gauff and Caty McNally take on Asia Muhammad and Taylor Townsend.

Earlier on Friday, Williams came from a break down in the second set to beat Laura Siegemund 6-4 6-3 and book an exciting semi-final against Amanda Anisimova, a 6-2 3-6 6-4 winner against wildcard Eugenie Bouchard.

Asked if she felt in good shape ahead of the Australian Open, Williams said: "I definitely feel that, and I feel like my match yesterday [against Christina McHale] was great.

"It's great that I went three sets, and it's great that I ran so much. I came out today just overall feeling better and doing better.

"Especially the match fitness – I'm super fit, but match fitness is a little different, so I think all these matches are really helping."

Wozniacki will face Jessica Pegula, who progressed when Alize Cornet retired at 6-0 3-2 down, after a routine 6-1 6-4 victory over defending champion Julia Goerges.

Osaka can improve her seeding ahead of the Australian Open if she makes the final at the Brisbane International, and standing in her way is her direct rival in world number two Pliskova.

Two-time major winner Osaka – ranked fourth in the world – had to fend off five break points to close out a 6-3 3-6 6-3 triumph over Kiki Bertens in the quarter-finals.

Reigning champion Pliskova lies in wait in the last four, though she had to stave off two set points in the first before winning 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 against Alison Riske. Petra Kvitova and Madison Keys will contest the other semi-final.

Garbine Muguruza was unable to kick off 2020 with a final appearance as she lost 6-4 6-3 to Ekaterina Alexandrova in the semi-finals of the Shenzhen Open.

Elena Rybakina, who beat Kristyna Pliskova 6-2 7-5, stands between Alexandrova and a first singles title on the WTA Tour.

Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka each came from a set down as they geared up their respective Australian Open preparations at the Auckland Classic and the Brisbane International.

Williams needed two hours to overcome compatriot Christina McHale 3-6 6-2 6-3 amid blustery conditions, dropping four of the first five games before hitting her stride.

"I got myself in a hole and I was able to get out of it, so that was satisfying," said Williams, who will face Laura Siegemund in the quarter-finals after the experienced German similarly beat Coco Gauff in three sets.

"I just got mad, and honestly, I said that I wanted to win more than one match here in New Zealand. I thought about that and sometimes it's the craziest things that get you motivated." 

Caroline Wozniacki, who is into the doubles semi-finals as Williams' partner in Auckland, came through a topsy-turvy encounter to beat Lauren Davis 6-1 4-6 6-4.

A dominant opening set from Wozniacki, where Davis was unable to hold serve, was not indicative of the absorbing back-and-forth that followed.

"I got a little lucky in the end and it could have gone both ways," the 29-year-old, who will retire after Melbourne, said.

Julia Goerges is up next for Wozniacki and enjoyed a more straightforward 6-3 6-2 win over Jil Teichmann.

World number one Ash Barty's first singles match of 2020 ended with American qualifier Jennifer Brady prevailing 6-4 7-6 (7-4) at the Brisbane International, where Osaka was facing a similar fate after dropping a tie-break in the opener of her match against Sofia Kenin.

The defending Australian Open champion stormed back to take the contest 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 6-1 and will face Kiki Bertens – a 6-3 2-6 7-5 winner over Anett Kontaveit.

Petra Kvitova made light work of Liudmila Samsonova, dropping only five games in a straight-sets victory, while number two seed Karolina Pliskova sowed more disappointment for the home crowd by beating Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-1 to set up a quarter-final against Alison Riske.

Pliskova's twin Kristyna rounded out the quarter-final action at the Shenzhen Open with a 6-4 6-4 win against Kateryna Bondarenko.

She will face Elena Rybakina, who beat third seed Elise Mertens 6-4 4-6 6-2, while Garbine Muguruza and Ekaterina Alexandrova came through three-setters against Zarina Diyas and Wang Qiang respectively to reach the other semi-final.

World number two Karolina Pliskova has appointed Dani Vallverdu as her new coach for the 2020 season.

The Czech recently split with Conchita Martinez just six months after appointing the Spaniard on a full-time basis, having also worked with Rennae Stubbs.

Pliskova has now turned to Vallverdu, who has coached the likes of Andy Murray, Juan Martin del Potro and Stan Wawrinka, as she eyes an elusive first grand slam title.

The 27-year-old hopes the Venezuelan can take her game to another level next year in what will be his first experience of coaching on the WTA Tour.

"He was one of my priorities from the beginning. He's had great results with his players, he understands tennis like hardly anyone else and I'm convinced he has a lot to offer to me," she said of the Venezuelan.

"I'm already looking forward to the start of the preparation."

Former doubles player Olga Savchuk has also joined Pliskova's coaching staff.

 

World number two Karolina Pliskova has confirmed she has split from her coach Conchita Martinez.

Former Wimbledon champion Martinez, who was second in the world herself during her playing career, started working with Pliskova on a full-time basis 10 months ago.

The Czech won four WTA titles in 2019 - the joint-most on the tour - but failed to make it beyond the fourth round of a grand slam after reaching the Australian Open semi-finals in January.

Last week, Pliskova was beaten in the last four of the season-ending WTA Finals by Ashleigh Barty.

"I decided I will no longer work with Conchita," Pliskova wrote on her social media accounts.

"It was tough decision, as the season was great. Thank you for all this year, and wish you only the best. Life is a change!"

Martinez, who coached Garbine Muguruza when she won Wimbledon in 2017, also posted a message on social media.

"Just a little note to inform you that Karolina and I have decided to take different paths next year," she said.

"It has been an incredible year full of great moments and emotions. I wish Kaja and her team the best for the future."

World number one Ashleigh Barty will take on defending champion Elina Svitolina for the WTA Finals title after both players came from a set down in their last-four contests.

Barty, who is aiming to round off comfortably the best year of her career with a maiden WTA Finals triumph, beat Karolina Pliskova 4-6 6-2 6-3 in the second semi-final in Shenzhen.

The French Open champion thumped 36 winners and saved all but one of the 12 break points she faced, yet she will have to break new ground in order to deny Svitolina a successful title defence.

Svitolina, who is remarkably set to play in her first final of 2019, has won all five of the pair's previous meetings.

The Ukrainian held a 5-7 6-3 4-1 lead when her semi-final rival, Belinda Bencic, retired due to cramping.

"You never want to finish the match and to see your opponent retiring," said Svitolina in an on-court interview. "It's very tough for her, especially at the end of the season, one of the biggest tournaments. Hopefully she can recover and be strong for next year.

"When I was coming to this tournament, definitely I was expecting very tough matches. It's the last tournament of the season, tomorrow [Sunday] is the last match of the season finally! It's going to be a tough one but I'm going to leave everything on the court to try to raise the cup again."

"I really didn't want to retire," Bencic said in a news conference. "I wanted to finish the match, but it was not possible. I'm really disappointed."

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