Plenty Of Familiar Names Remain Down Under

Simona Halep (photo: Jay Town/Tennis Australia)

WASHINGTON, February 3, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

On Wednesday at Melbourne Park, the fields for two of the three WTA 500-series events were pared down to the last eight. After four straight days of competition – and with less than a week to go before the start of the Australian Open – everyone is eager to keep the momentum going and to get as many matches under their belts as possible.

However, just after midnight Thursday in Melbourne, Tennis Australia, the governing body of Australian tennis, declared all matches scheduled for Thursday at Melbourne Park were postponed after a hotel quarantine worker at the Grand Hyatt, where many of the players and their teams are staying during the Melbourne Summer Series and Australian Open, tested positive for COVID-19.

In a statement released by Tennis Australia, it said:

“Authorities have advised that everyone who stayed at the Grand Hyatt between 16-29 January will need to be tested and isolate until they receive a negative test result.

“We have been advised that you need to isolate at all times other than when you travel to and from your test.

“We will work with everyone involved to facilitate testing as quickly as possible.”

An update on the schedule for Friday will be announced later.

Barty, Kenin, Serena advance in Yarra Valley Classic

Seven seeded players, including No. 1 seed Ashleigh Barty and No. 2 seed Sofia Kenin, advanced to the quarterfinal round of the Yarra Valley Classic. The lone unseeded player remaining is No. 60 Shelby Rogers of the United States, who will oppose Barty. Four U.S. players remain in the last eight, including Kenin, No. 5 seed Serena Williams and No. 13 seed Danielle Collins, who knocked No. 3 seed Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic out of the tournament.

Barty started and finished strong against No. 16 seed Marie Bouzkova of Czech Republic, ranked 52nd, and won 6-0, 4-6, 6-3. The Aussie hit seven aces and broke Bouzkova six times during their two hour and 24-minute match on Margaret Court Arena.

“It’s always nice to test the legs and get into those tougher matches obviously,” Barty said during her post-match press conference. “There were ebbs and flows of momentum but happy to come away with it in the third and change things a little bit to come back my way.”

Next, the World No. 1 will face Rogers, who upset No. 7 seed Petra Martic of Croatia, 7-6 (1), 6-3. “Shelby has always had the ability,” said Barty, sizing up her quarterfinal foe. “She’s got a big game, an exceptional game. I know over time she’s struggled with some injuries … but I’ve played her a couple of times and we’ve always had very, very good battles. She’s a big ball striker, likes the ball on her terms, so I think I’ll have to have my running shoes on and try and neutralize as best that I can as often as I can to then turn it back on my terms.”

Meanwhile, the second seed Kenin needed to go the distance to hold off unseeded American Jessica Pegula, ranked 64th, 5-7, 7-5, 6-2. Pegula was two games away from her second career win over Kenin, ahead a set and a break, before the reigning Australian Open champion fought back.

“I started fighting, found my groove,” said Kenin during her post-match press conference in describing how she recovered. “I was happy the way I was able to change things in the second. First, I did some things wrong. Then, I made the adjustment in the second.”

Next, Kenin will face No. 6 seed Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain, who easily beat No. 11 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, 6-1, 6-2. Their quarterfinal will be a rematch between the champion and runner up of last year’s Australian Open final.

Elsewhere, in a battle of moms, the 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams defeated Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, 6-1, 6-4, to move into the quarterfinals against Collins, who upset Pliskova, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3).

“It’s definitely nice to get another win,” declared the 39-year-old Williams during her on-court interview. She beat Pironkova in 71 minutes in back of six aces while not facing any break points on her serve. “She’s clearly a great player. So, it wasn’t easy, but it was good to come through.”

Also reaching the quarterfinals were: No. 8 seed Marketa Vondrousova of Czech Republic, who needed just over three hours to beat No. 154 Vera Zvonareva of Russia, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (4), 6-4; and No. 14 Nadia Podoroska of Argentina, who rallied for a 5-7, 6-1, 7-6 (7) victory over No. 4 seed Petra Kvitova of Czech Republic.

Top seeds Halep, Osaka move on in Gippsland Trophy

No. 1 seed Simona Halep of Romania reached the Gippsland Trophy quarterfinals with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over No. 51 Laura Siegemund of Germany. The World No. 2 was successful in winning 73 percent (35 of 48) of her first-serve points and saved all but one break points she faced during the one hour and 28-minute match on Margaret Court Arena.

“I can say I’m happy,” said Halep. “A little bit in the second set at the beginning I was with no energy, but then I stayed focused. I knew that she’s gonna change the rhythm a lot. She did that, many drop shots, but I was ready for it. I feel like I played much better than the first round.”

Next, Halep will oppose No. 9 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia, who beat No. 6 seed Iga Swiatek of Poland, 6-4, 6-2, aided by seven aces and four breaks of Swiatek’s serve. It denied a Halep-Swiatek rematch from last year’s Roland Garros, won by Swiatek during the round of 16.

Also, No. 2 seed Naomi Osaka of Japan ran her unbeaten streak to 13 following a 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 triumph over Great Britain’s Katie Boulter, ranked 371st.

During an on-court interview after her one hour and 47-minute victory, Osaka said “After I lost the first set, I wanted to fight as hard as I can. She was playing really amazing. So, I thought that if I lost at the end of day, it’s okay, but I just wanted to give my best effort.

“I like playing long matches because I feel like I can gauge the condition of the court and that my fitness gets better. I played a short match [Tuesday], so maybe subconsciously, I felt like I needed to play a long match today.”

Osaka hit 36 winners against Boulter to reach the quarterfinal round and came on strong after losing the first set. “I couldn’t have asked for a better, preparation match,” she said during her press conference. “I think it was very different from my first-round match. I can’t practice a match like this. So, I’m very happy with how it went actually. Even though it was long, I think there are a lot of things that I learned in this match.”

Next, Osaka will play No. 79 Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania, who upset No. 5 seed Johanna Konta of Great Britain, 4-6, 7-6 (10), 7-6 (4), in three hours and 23 minutes, making it the longest match of the year in the WTA. It took nine match points for Begu to pull out the victory and along the way, she saved two match points during the 22-point second-set tiebreak.

Meanwhile, a quarterfinal showdown between No. 3 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine and No. 7 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium became reality after both advanced with wins on Wednesday. Svitolina rebounded from a set down to beat No. 13 seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-2, while Mertens had an easier go of it against No. 12 seed Caroline Garcia of France, winning 7-6 (1), 6-3.

Also advancing to the quarterfinals were: No. 8 seed Karolina Muchova of Czech Republic, who recovered to beat No. 97 Jasmine Paolini of Italy, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. She will face Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi, ranked 94th, who scored a 7-5, 6-1 victory over No. 71 Daria Kasatkina of Russia.

Seeds advance in Grampians Trophy

Play got underway in the third of the trio of WTA 500-series events with the opening round of the Grampians Trophy. All three seeds in action on Wednesday advanced.

Former World No. 1 and 2016 Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber, who had been winless since last summer’s US Open and idle since bowing int the opening round of Roland Garros, reached the second round with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win over No. 59 Katerina Siniakova of Czech Republic. After going more than four months since her last match, Kerber overcame 42 unforced errors by hitting 20 winners and outpointed Siniakova 102-94.

Next, Kerber will face No. 30 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, who needed just 53 minutes to beat No. 61 Anna Blinkova of Russia, 6-1, 6-1.

Other seeded winners included: No. 6 seed Anett Kontaveit, who beat No. 82 Christina McHale of the United States, 6-1, 6-3; and No. 7 Jennifer Brady of the U.S., who advanced over No. 37 Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 6-3, 6-0. The biggest upset of the day occurred as No. 89 Leylah Fernandez of Canada dropped just four games during her 71-minute, 6-3, 6-1 victory over 40th-ranked American Sloane Stephens.

Following the withdrawal earlier this week of top seed Bianca Andreescu of Canada, the highest remaining seed, No. 2 Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, will see her first action of the tournament. She faces No. 72 Sorana Cirstea of Romania, who advanced with a 6-1, 6-1 win over No. 63 Oksana Kalashnikova of Georgia.

Yarra Valley Classic results

Gippsland Trophy results

Grampians Trophy results

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