Revenge Is Sweet For Muguruza Against Kenin

Garbiñe Muguruza (photo: Rob Prezioso/Tennis Australia)

WASHINGTON, February 5, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Friday afternoon’s Yarra Valley Classic quarterfinal match between World No. 4 Sofia Kenin and No. 15 Garbiñe Muguruza on a busy Margaret Court Arena was a rematch of last year’s Australian Open final – in name only. This time, it was all Muguruza. Indeed, revenge was sweet for the Spaniard.

The No. 6 seed from Spain took out Kenin, seeded second, 6-2, 6-2, in one hour and 15 minutes with the roof closed to advance to Saturday’s semifinal round against No. 8 seed Marketa Vondrousova after the Czech defeated No. 14 seed Nadia Podoroska of Argentina, 4-6, 6-3, 10-4. It will be Vondrousova’s first semifinal appearance since Rome last year.

“It’s always better to know you’ve played well; I think that gives you happiness and energy and hope that things can go well again,” said Muguruza, who has dropped just nine games this week through her first three matches.

Muguruza fired 10 aces and hit 28 winners while the struggling American Kenin committed 28 unforced errors and was broken five times by Muguruza, who outpointed her opponent 67-46.

Later, Muguruza said during her press conference, “I knew it was going to be a very tough game from the baseline, because I remember very clearly the last match. I was looking for it, I was more prepared to for the biggest battle, you know?

“I think I played better; I think I used my shots smarter and took my chances and I think I did well early. So, I got the advantage of the score and then I kept playing well and dominating the match.”

Aussie summer continues well for Barty

It’s been nearly a year since World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty played in a WTA event. In her comeback from her self-imposed sabbatical following the tour’s restart, Barty was pushed to a decisive match-tiebreak against unseeded American Shelby Rogers. But ultimately, the Aussie prevailed, 7-5, 2-6, 10-4 to reach the semifinal round against No. 5 seed Serena Williams, who took out No. 13 seed Danielle Collins, 6-2, 4-6, 10-6, in an all-American matchup.

However, a few hours later, Williams withdrew ahead of Saturday’s semifinal against Barty due to a right shoulder injury. Thus, Barty receives a walkover into Sunday’s championship match and will be playing a final in her home country for the second straight year.

Barty hit 10 aces against the No. 60 Rogers and won 71 percent of her first-serve points. She broke her opponent twice in seven tries. Her match was the first to use a 10-point match tie-break to decide the third set in an effort to speed up play for the rest of the tournament.

“It’s an adjust without a doubt, having 12 months of not a lot of matches,” Barty said during her post-match press conference. “But, look, I feel fit. I feel healthy. Obviously, a little bit of soreness is good knowing that you’ve been able to test yourself. Looking forward to fleshing up over the next few days and enjoying the competition of what’s left.”

Alexandrova upsets Halep, Osaka wins

Ninth seed Ekaterina Alexandrova lost just three games en route to an upset of No. 1 seed Simona Halep in the quarterfinal round of the Gippsland Trophy Friday evening inside Margaret Court Arena.

After Halep jumped out to a 2-0 lead at the start of the hour-long match, the 33rd-ranked Russian won 11 of the next 12 games to win. She advances to Saturday’s semifinals against unseeded Kaia Kanepi, ranked 94th, who moved into the final four with a walkover win against No. 8 seed Karolina Muchova of Czech Republic, who withdrew due to a left abdominal injury. It will be Alexandrova’s third semifinal in the past year.

Alexandrova hit 18 winners to just six for Halep and converted five of 10 break-point opportunities against the World No. 2 from Romania. The Russian aided her own cause by saving five of six break points.

“Playing semifinals tomorrow, it’ll be just great for me,” Alexandrova said. “I just tried to play my best. I was kind of nervous at the start because this court isn’t my lucky one. But, after two games, I won one game and I felt much better.”

Meanwhile, No. 2 seed Naomi Osaka from Japan reached the semifinals with a 7-5, 6-1 win over No. 79 Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania in 73 minutes. The reigning US Open champion hit 22 winners while committing just 11 unforced errors. Osaka’s victory extended her unbeaten streak to 14 consecutive match wins.

“My opponent today, she was really tricky for me,” said Osaka during her on-court interview following her quarterfinal triumph. “I’ve never played her before, so just to be able to not have to play that 10-point tiebreaker, for me, I’m really relieved.”

Osaka will face No. 7 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium, who needed six match points before she finally beat third seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, 6-3, 5-7, 10-6, in the final quarterfinal match on a very busy day and night at Melbourne Park.

“I thought this was never going to end,” Mertens said during her on-court interview. “Had to keep trying, and that’s what I did.”

Mertens was unable to convert three match points during the 10th game of the second set, ahead 5-4, plus two more in the tiebreak. Finally, on her sixth match point, Mertens completed the victory when Svitolina netted a forehand return.

Mertens is 2-1 lifetime against Osaka.

Azarenka highest remaining seed in Grampians Trophy

With No. 1 seed Bianca Andreescu a late withdrawal coupled with the upset of No. 2 seed Belinda Bencic by Sorana Cirstea, it leaves No. 3 seed Victoria Azarenka as the player to beat in the Grampians Trophy as the WTA 500-series event completed its second round on Friday. The tournament field is comprised of players who endured the strict 14-day quarantine without benefit of of practice due to close contact with flight passengers who tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Melbourne two weeks ago.

First, the World No. 12 Bencic from Switzerland was eliminated by the No. 72 Cirstea, 7-5, 6-2, and later No. 4 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan lost to No. 66 Barbora Krejcikova of Czech Republic, 4-6, 6-2, 10-6.

However, the remaining seeds – No. 3 Azarenka of Belarus, No. 5 Maria Sakkari of Greece, No. 6 Anett Kontaveit, No. 7 Jennifer Brady of the United States and No. 8 Angelique Kerber from Germany – all advanced to Saturday’s quarterfinal round. All but Azarenka won in straight sets.

Azarenka saved two match points to beat No. 28 Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan, 6-4, 1-6, 11-9 in her first match of the season.

What they’re saying

Ashleigh Barty: “Each match has been very different, different challenges, different things I’ve had to overcome, which is the best thing, to be able to work through those and give myself another chance to play a little bit better the next day, focus on some new challenges for the next day.”

Naomi Osaka: “I think what I’ve learned is that I take each match as an experience, and I try to – I honestly try to practice things in my matches before the slams, just to, like, take a bit of stress off and just to know that what I’m doing is like I’m trying to perfect something instead of just trying to win a match. So, I feel like I try to take that mindset into it, and slowly start implementing my game as I play more matches.”

Yarra Valley Classic results

Gippsland Trophy results

Grampians Trophy results 

Melbourne Summer Series order of play