WTA

Osaka wins 23rd straight match, defending champ Barty progresses to quarters

By Sports Desk March 29, 2021

World number two Naomi Osaka and defending champion Ash Barty advanced to the quarter-finals of the Miami Open.

Osaka reached the last eight at the WTA Premier event for the first time in her career thanks to Monday's straight-sets win over Elise Mertens.

World number one Barty overcame two-time grand slam champion Victoria Azarenka in a tough three-set battle in Miami.

 

THERE'S NO STOPPING OSAKA

Australian Open champion Osaka extended her winning streak to a remarkable 23 matches.

Osaka defeated 16th seed Mertens 6-3 6-3 to stay hot – Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Justine Henin and Azarenka are the only other players with winning streaks of 23 or more matches since 2000.

"It definitely feels very special," four-time major winner Osaka said. "This is one of my favourite tournaments to play, and of course I'm sad I hadn't been able to get to the second week the last times that I have played this tournament. But I'm here now, and hopefully it will go well this time."

Maria Sakkari is next for Osaka after the 23rd seed saved six match points in her 6-4 2-6 7-6 (8-6) win over Jessica Pegula.

 

BARTY WINS BATTLE OF PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER ONES

In a rollercoaster battle, top seed Barty prevailed 6-1 1-6 6-2 against 14th seed Azarenka.

Barty extended her winning streak in Miami to nine matches after coming out on top against the former world number one.

"Playing against Vika you have to be ready right from the first point," Barty said. "I felt like I did that well in the first set and she gave me a few cheap errors. Then through the second she lifted her intensity.

"I probably wasn't sharp enough in those first couple of games to be able to go with her, particularly with new balls. When Vika is ahead and she's a front runner, she's the very best in the world."

Aryna Sabalenka stands in the way of Barty and the semi-finals after the seventh seed trounced Marketa Vondrousova 6-1 6-2.

 

SVITOLINA WINS THRILLER, ANDREESCU RALLIES

Fifth seed Elina Svitolina rallied past two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova 2-6 7-5 7-5.

Svitolina made a slow start against the red-hot ninth seed, but the 2018 WTA Finals champion finished strongly to progress.

Anastasija Sevastova took down Ana Konjuh 6-1 7-5 to set up a clash with Svitolina.

Meanwhile, eighth seed and 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu came from behind to defeat two-time slam winner Garbine Muguruza 3-6 6-3 6-2.

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    Matteo Berrettini made Italian tennis history on Sunday as he blasted his way past Pablo Carreno Busta and into the Australian Open quarter-finals.

    The seventh seed won 7-5 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 in a gruelling contest to set up a last-eight clash with Gael Monfils, who earlier beat Miomir Kecmanovic.

    Berrettini is the first men's player from his country to reach the quarter-final stage of all four grand slams in the singles draw, and only the 10th active player to achieve the feat.

    The 25-year-old only reached this stage of a major for the first time in 2019 and has since gone as far as the final in Wimbledon last year, where he lost to Novak Djokovic.

    Having withdrawn from his round-of-16 match with Stefanos Tsitsipas in Melbourne in 2021 due to an abdominal injury, Berrettini was delighted to have progressed.

    "It was really tough last year. I really wanted to play, but I couldn't with the tear in the ab," he said.

    "But I believe there is a reason for everything that happens and I've been wishing to come back as soon as possible and the way I won today shows how much I care about this tournament."

    Berrettini had luck on his side in the first set as two netcords on Carreno Busta's serve allowed him to break for a 6-5 lead.

    Once ahead in the match, his serve and baseline power became too much for the Spaniard: Berrettini rained down 28 aces, winning 87 per cent of points behind his first serve, and hit 57 winners.

    "I was really precise with my serving and he wasn't reading my serve, which is why I hit a lot of aces," he said.

    Next up is a meeting with Monfils, who has now reached 10 slam quarter-finals in his career and a first in Australia in six years.

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    "It's been a long journey for me and I'm quite happy, but it's not finished," said Monfils. "I will try to play this quarter-final not like the last time. I will try to be better.

    "It's an achievement but we're not quite finished yet."

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    World number one Ash Barty promised to carry on playing her own game after booking her spot in the last eight of the Australian Open.

    Barty, the top seed, defeated Amanda Anisimova 6-4 6-3 on Sunday to progress to the quarter-finals in Melbourne for a fourth successive time.

    Anisimova defeated last year's champion Naomi Osaka in the last round, but she proved no match for Barty, who sealed the win in 74 minutes.

    Barty did see her run of holding serve ended, however, after 63 games without being broken, though it was a minor blip in another convincing win. 

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    "That's what I’m good at, that's who I and who I want to be."

    Her comments were well received by the crowd at Rod Laver Arena, and Barty is delighted to be playing in front of spectators once again.

    "The last two years have been extraordinarily tough for a lot of people around the world," she said.

    "To have the crowd here, it brings a lot more to the tennis. It makes it a lot more enjoyable for me to play at home."

    Barty struck seven aces and registered a first-serve percentage of 78, while also hitting 23 winners and making exactly half the amount of unforced errors as Anisimova (17 to 34).

    "Amanda is an incredible athlete and incredible competitor. It's nice to see her back playing her best tennis," Barty continued.

    "I enjoyed sharing the court with her and testing myself against her. It was nice to be able to hold firm tonight."

    Asked in a post-match news conference about dropping serve for the first time in eight matches, Barty replied: "It didn't bother me too much.

    "Honestly, I'm not counting how many games I hold in a row or not. The fact I was able to reset, break straight back, was really important, just to be able to reset myself, go again and continue to do the right things."

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    "It's going to be a challenge for me to try and push her off that baseline and make her uncomfortable and feel like she has to create," Barty told reporters.

    "But I know that she's also going to be doing the exact same thing to me and trying to make me uncomfortable.

    "That's the chess game that we play. You go out there and have fun with it, see who can execute better on the day, and that's about all there is to it."

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    Zverev had been looking sharp in Melbourne over the last week, with the world number three not dropping a single set en route to the last 16.

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    Shapovalov had lost to Zverev in the ATP Cup earlier this month, but after Sunday's win the duo's head-to-head record stands at 4-3 in the latter's favour.

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    Nadal holds a 3-1 head-to-head record against Shapovalov, though this will be the first time the pair have met in a major.

    "It's always an honour to go up against a guy like Rafa," said Shapovalov after reaching his first Australian Open quarter-final.

    "It's always going to be a battle against him. It's going to be a tough one and I'm definitely going to enjoy it."

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    "It's probably the one I least expected to finish in three. I'm very happy with my performance, definitely happy with where my game is at," he added.

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