WTA

Kontaveit and Ostapenko extend winning streaks as Swiatek breaks new ground in Doha

By Sports Desk February 24, 2022

Anett Kontaveit remained on course for a sixth title in seven months, progressing to the Qatar Open semi-finals after defeating Ons Jabeur in straight sets.

Champion in St Petersburg two weeks ago, Kontaveit extended her winning run to eight matches following a 6-4 6-1 success.

The opening set was neck and neck until Kontaveit won 15 out of 16 points from 30-30 at 4-4 to draw first blood and establish a 2-0 lead in the second.

The Estonian, who registered just 12 unforced errors throughout the contest, then took 12 of the last 15 points to advance to the last four. 

"At times, it was just kind of fun because I felt like the level was really good, and I was playing really well," said Kontaveit, who has won nine of her last 13 matches against top-10 opposition.

"I think I have this confidence that I can go deep every week that I'm playing, and I'm not setting these mental barriers to myself that I used to do. 

"I'm very happy with being in the semi-finals, but I also feel like I can still go deeper, I can still do more. So, I'm not too satisfied yet with this result. I feel like if I play well or if I'm consistent, I have a chance with anyone.

"I'm really happy that I'm bringing a good level of tennis consistently every tournament. I think that's something that I'm just most pleased with."

In the semi-finals, Kontaveit will face another in-form player in Jelena Ostapenko, who saw off Garbine Muguruza in straight sets.

Having triumphed in Dubai last week, the 15th seed has now recorded nine successive victories for the first time in her career after prevailing 6-2 6-2.

Ostapenko struck 39 winners and claimed 15 of 18 points on her opponent's second serve as she moved a step closer to a maiden title in Doha, having reached the final six years ago.

Meanwhile, Iga Swiatek is through to her first WTA 1000 semi-final on a hard court after a 6-2 6-3 win over Aryna Sabalenka.

The former French Open champion won seven out of eight breakpoints, while reeling off six successive games in the second set to secure a comfortable victory.

Next up for her is Maria Sakkari, who recorded her third win against Coco Gauff in four meetings after prevailing 6-3 6-3.

The sixth seed is through to her sixth semi-final at WTA 1000 level or above – and targeting her first such title.

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    Rafael Nadal fended off a second early test of his Wimbledon mettle as he took four sets to see off Ricardas Berankis on Thursday.

    Just as in his opener against Francisco Cerundolo, Nadal dropped the third set of this match, but he regrouped, as he had two days earlier, to finish it in four.

    A 6-4 6-4 4-6 6-3 victory for the 36-year-old will do the job for round two, but it was laboured at times on Centre Court from Nadal, a day after title favourite Novak Djokovic delivered a masterclass against Thanasi Kokkinakis.

    Australian Open and French Open champion Nadal sealed it with an ace, his 16th consecutive win in a grand slam match, and the lack of polish at this early stage can be forgiven, given his lack of preparation on grass as he underwent treatment on his troublesome foot.

    World number 106 Berankis forced breaks to lead early in the second and third sets, and although the Lithuanian was pegged back quickly enough by Nadal on the first occasion, he held his nerve to take the third set.

    A rain delay came when Nadal was 3-0 clear in the fourth set, and that was only an inconvenience, Nadal wasting little time in finishing the job.

    With Matteo Berrettini and Roberto Bautista Agut both pulling out of Nadal's half of the draw due to COVID-19, and Denis Shapovalov losing on Thursday to Brandon Nakashima after reaching the semi-finals last year, it is hard to see who might deny the Spanish two-time champion a place in the final, unless Nick Kyrgios or Stefanos Tsitsipas fancy the task. Italian Lorenzo Sonego will be the next to try.

    Nadal said: "Every day is a challenge. That's the truth. I didn't play much on grass in the last three years. I need to improve, but I think the fourth set was much better. I think it was a good level of tennis in that set and the serve worked much better at the end of the match and I was able to play more aggressive, while at the beginning there were too many mistakes.

    "It's important for me to accept things are not perfect and just keep working, be humble and accept the challenge."

    Data slam: Going past Martina

    Nadal took his total of singles grand slam wins to 307 with this victory, taking him one ahead of Martina Navratilova, the nine-time Wimbledon champion.

    He moves up to fourth place on the all-time list for singles wins in the majors, behind only Roger Federer, who leads the way, Serena Williams and Djokovic.

    Nadal of course leads the men's slam race with an unmatched 22 slams.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
    Nadal – 35/39
    Berankis – 35/35

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Nadal – 13/4
    Berankis – 3/3

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Nadal – 4/16
    Berankis – 2/5

  • Wimbledon: Kyrgios 'wanted to remind everyone that I'm pretty good' as he sets up Tsitsipas showdown Wimbledon: Kyrgios 'wanted to remind everyone that I'm pretty good' as he sets up Tsitsipas showdown

    Nick Kyrgios took a swipe at his critics after storming to a mesmerisingly brilliant second-round win at Wimbledon, setting up an appetising clash with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

    The 27-year-old Australian was largely all business and no nonsense as he won 6-2 6-3 6-1 in one hour and 25 minutes against 26th seed Filip Krajinovic, delivering the kind of performance that underlines his potential threat at this tournament.

    Yet Kyrgios had been far from his best against British player Paul Jubb in round one, eventually forcing victory by taking a tight fifth set, and his on-court behaviour came in for close scrutiny too in that match.

    Against Jubb, a line judge was prompted to speak to the chair umpire about Kyrgios, whose demands for some fans to be removed were punctuated by spitting towards a section of the crowd upon victory.

    Kyrgios spoke after that match of receiving "a lot of disrespect" from the crowds, while he also jousted with journalists in a news conference, before being angered by what he read afterwards.

    Sinking Queen's Club runner-up Krajinovic in such a classy fashion was described by the unseeded Kyrgios as his response.

    "I was pretty disappointed in my performance in the first round. Then obviously the media's disrespect and just everything, it was just kind of a reminder to put you all back in your place from the performance today," Kyrgios said. "He made finals at Queen's, top 30 in the world, seeded. It's a gentle reminder."

    Kyrgios hit 50 winners and made only 10 unforced errors, saying in an on-court interview that he had displayed "great body language".

    "I just wanted to remind everyone that I'm pretty good," he said, with a deliberately straight face.

    "I'm just happy. I've been working hard and I've been preparing for this tournament. It's been circled on my calendar pretty much all year, and I'm so excited to be here again.

    "I think it's my best chance to win a grand slam of all the four [majors], and I'll keep taking it match by match. I've got an incredibly tough draw still, and today I couldn't have played better and now I can just recover and get ready."

    Awaiting Kyrgios in round three is Tsitsipas, a straight-sets winner on Thursday against another Australian, Jordan Thompson.

    Kyrgios holds a 3-1 winning head-to-head advantage over Tsitsipas in their previous meetings, coming out on top when they met at Halle just a fortnight ago.

    That recent match means Tsitsipas has it fresh in his mind what it might take to topple Kyrgios, and the Greek fourth seed told a news conference: "He claims to like grass and his game is good for the grass.

    "I am thrilled to be facing him. I respect him a lot on the court and what he is trying to do. Even though he has been a little controversial in the past, I think he's playing good tennis.

    "I'm going to concentrate on doing my own thing and pay attention to my own game from start to finish. Hopefully I can have a great competitive match against him."

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    The world number one was taken to three sets by lucky loser Kerkhove in Thursday's second-round tie at Wimbledon but came out on top 6-4 4-6 6-3 on Court No. 1.

    Swiatek overtook Monica Seles' career-best 36-match winning streak with her latest triumph and can surpass Hingis with victory over Alize Cornet in the next round.

    That would see the Pole hold the record for the most successive victories on the WTA Tour since 1990, something she would take great pride in.

    "I think another match to this number [37] is pretty special for me, but you know, when I'm out there, I'm not really thinking about that," she said in her on-court interview.

    "I'm just trying to play the best tennis possible on grass, and the result is going to come. I don't have full influence in it, but I'm happy that [the winning streak] is 37.

    "Now I'm going to do my best to get even more."

     

    Swiatek still has some way to go to match the all-time winning run, with the record held by Martina Navratilova (74 in a row during 1984).

    The two-time French Open winner was far from her best against world number 138 Kerkhove in a match lasting more than two hours that saw her broken three times.

    She dropped a set for just the seventh time during her incredible run, which stretches back to defeat against Jelena Ostapenko in mid-February.

    In doing so, Kerkhove became the lowest-ranked player to win a set against the number one female in the world since Carla Suarez Navarro – also ranked 138 – against Ash Barty at Wimbledon last year.

    "She played a really great match, and it seemed that she really understood how to play today," Swiatek added. 

    "But I'm really happy that I could sometimes just fight back and be the last one to play that ball in. I'm pretty happy that I'm going to have another chance to play here."

    Swiatek has now won 46 matches this year in total. In the entirety of the 2021 season, only Anett Kontaveit and Ons Jabeur (both 48) won more matches.

    Up next is former world number 11 Cornet, who is playing her 62nd consecutive grand slam tournament, which ties Ai Sugiyama for the Open Era record.

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