July 26, 2016

Johanna Konta Serves Her Way Into Her First WTA Final

Johanna Konta

Johanna Konta

By Curt Janka

(July 23, 2016) STANFORD, California – Johanna Konta lost just six points on her serve as she toppled Dominika Cibulkova 6-4, 6-2 in the first semifinal of the Bank of the West Classic. The win earns Konta her first WTA final and it’s the first time a British player has played for the trophy here since Virginia Wade in 1981.

The third seed Konta served a total of nine games and held at love for six of them. Cibulkova, the second seed and 2013 champion, is arguably one of the better returners on tour, so what made Konta’s serve so tough today? “She was placing the serve so well and it was hard for me to do something with it,” the Slovak Cibulkova answered. “She was changing the directions of the serve, so that was the main thing. Today she was just serving too well.“

The 25-year-old British woman, currently ranked No. 18,  backed up her serve with solid ground strokes and returns, breaking her higher-seeded opponent three times. After the match, she was pleased with her performance. “I’m really happy to have come through that and to be into my first final,” Konta said. “I thought I served well and did a good job in the end of staying in the present. She [Cibulkova] is an incredible competitor, so I knew going into the match that I was going to have to be there for every single point. I achieved that, so I’m feeling very grateful and looking forward to my next match tomorrow.”

Konta was also playing in the doubles semifinal with her partner, Maria Sanchez, against Darija Jurak and Anastasia Rodionova. Konta will play Venus Williams in the final. The two-time Stanford winner beat Alison Riske in the night session.

“I’m really happy to have come through that and to be into my first final,” Konta said after her win.

 

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Venus Williams Playing Like The Top Seed She Is At The Bank Of The West Classic

Venus Williams

Venus Williams

By Curt Janka

(July 22, 2016) STANFORD, California –  A relaxed Venus Williams played composed tennis as she breezed to a 6-4, 6-1 win over 17-year-old wildcard Catherine Bellis at the Bank of the West Classic on Friday night. While it may have taken three sets for Williams to get by her previous opponent, there was no sign of tension in her play on Friday night. Experience may have been the key against her younger opponent.

When asked why she looked so at ease on the court she said, “I just felt like I had a lot of experience and as a young person she has to go for a lot more than I ever have to go for because I understand the game more. So I felt just comfortable that I could control the match.”

“After Wimbledon I was really pumped,” the 36-year-old Williams said. “I was like, ‘I can’t wait to play.’ That felt good. It felt good to be eager.”

When asked what else she is looking forward to this summer, the two-time Stanford winner replied, “There’s so much to look forward to! The semifinals tomorrow is like my main focus. The Olympics I’ve been waiting for four years. As soon as the last one was over I was ready to go again. It’s getting closer and it feels surreal but when I get there it’s gonna be real. And after that you just turn right back around and play the Open.”

CiCi Bellis

CiCi Bellis

Despite a quick second set, Bellis did make the first set very competitive. “I learned a lot,” she said. “I think mainly I just have to focus on the key points. There are a couple points in the first set that I think if I played a little bit more aggressive I could have won them. But, you know, she’s obviously the number one seed here, so it’s unbelievable to be on the court with someone like her.“

Asked about her short-term goals, Bellis smiled and said, “Yesterday, actually, I committed to Stanford. I’m just going to see how the next year goes in my pro career.” She explained that after another year on tour, she would start her college career at Stanford.

Top seed Williams will face Alison Riske in the semifinals on Saturday. Riske advanced when her quarterfinal opponent fourth seed Coco Vandeweghe suffered an ankle injury and had to retire.

In the bottom half of the draw, second seed Dominika Cibulkova came back from two early breaks to win 7-5, 6-0 over Misaki Doi. Cibulkova will next face third seed Johanna Konta, who beat her quarterfinal opponent, Zheng Saiai 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.

 

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Cibulkova Wins Eastbourne for First Grass Court Title

Dominika Cibulkova

(June 25, 2016) Dominika Cibulkova won her second title of the year and her first career title on grass when she beat Czech Karolina Pliskova 7-5, 6-3 Saturday for the Eastbourne International title.
“It was extremely tough match today,” said the winner. “With the conditions and with the wind it was really, really, really tough to play and focus. That’s why I was really strong about today that I was — in the beginning I was a little bit nervous about the wind, so my serve wasn’t really working really well.

“Then when my coach came, he said, you know, Just focus on your serve. Don’t focus too much on the wind. Do the same things when there is no wind.

“So, yeah, I was in the rallies and I found my rhythm after a while. You know, I was just feeling really good on the court. I knew what I had to do. I was going for my forehands and was really solid on the backhand.

“I was also returning pretty well. So all these things came together, and that’s why I won today.”
“This one is really special one,” the Slovak said about taking home her sixth career tournament trophy. “You know, this is a special title. It’s second title of the year. I was never able to win two titles in one year. We’re in the half of the season and this is my second one. So it feels just great. It’s my first one on the grass.

“This tournament, I would say it’s the toughest one before the Grand Slam, because, you know, everybody want to play on grass and this is a big one. So, you know, the competition here was really strong. I was able to beat the top players on the grass, so it gives me a lot of confidence.”
Pliskova, who was seeking to add a second grass court title in three weeks fell a little short on Saturday.
“She was playing some good tennis,” Pliskova said. “Me, I was playing so-so, sometimes good, sometimes bad. But she didn’t let me to play my game. She was playing aggressive and going to my serves.

“Like I said, she was just a little bit better. I think I had a lot of chances. I didn’t play that bad in those chances what I had some break points.”

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Halep wins Madrid Open; Murray Beats Nadal and Will Meet Djokovic in the Final

Simona Halep

Simona Halep

(May 7, 2016) Calling her win “the best day in my life,” Romania’s Simona Halep won her second career WTA Premier Mandatory event when she beat Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-4 to claim the Madrid Open title.

“I saw always that it’s a special tournament because of Mr. (Ion) Tiriac, because of many Romanians that are coming here. I feel like home,” Halep said. Tiriac, also a Romanian, is a member of the tennis Hall of Fame is the Tournament Director of Madrid and gave Halep a wildcard into the tournament three years ago.

The victory for Halep marks her 12th career WTA tournament title. She will now move up to No. 5 in the rankings. Cibulkova will rise to No. 26.

Kei Nishikori and Novak Djokovic at GR8 Fundraiser in Miami in 2011

Kei Nishikori and Novak Djokovic at GR8 Fundraiser in Miami in 2011

Novak Djokovic will meet defending champion Andy Murray in the Madrid Open final on Sunday. No. 2 Murray saved 11 break points in holding off four-time Madrid winner No. 5 Rafael Nadal 7-5, 6-4, snapping the Spaniard’s 13-match winning streak. Murray beat Nadal in last year’s Madrid final.

“Not loads of players have won against Rafa on clay throughout his career,” Murray said. “To beat him in Spain on a clay court is obviously a big, big challenge for any player. Very pleased to have beaten him this year.”

“Murray was not unbeatable today,” Nadal said in press. “It was an open match, an even match,”

“I didn’t play my best level, but I didn’t play badly. I played a medium level, which was not enough to beat Murray.”

Djokovic beat Kei Nishikori 6-3, 7-6(4) in the other men’s semifinal. The Serbian had some trouble serving out the match leading 6-4, 5-4 40-0. The man from Japan came back and held off four match points against him to even the set at 5-5. Both men held and went to a tiebreak, which Djokovic won 7-3.

“It wasn’t easy to play in these very windy conditions, but overall I’m very pleased,” Djokovic said.”

Going into the final Djokovic leads Murray 22-9, winning 11 of the last 12 matches, winning all four matches on clay. Murray needs to win on Sunday to keep his No. 2 ranking ahead of the French Open or Roger Federer will move up to the second spot.

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Dominika Cibulkova Posts First Win over Camila Giorgi to Claim Katowice Open

Dominika Cibulkova

Dominika Cibulkova

(April 10, 2016) Dominika Cibulkova celebrated her father’s birthday by winning her first WTA tournament of the year and first since 2014, beating Camila Giorgi 6-4, 6-0 for the Katowice Open title. It’s Cibulkova’s fifth career WTA title.  For Giorgi, this was her third straight Katowice Open final.

Cibulkova took a 4-0 lead to open the match but fought off a comeback by the Italian, breaking the Slovak’s serve as she led 5-2, trying to close out the first set. Cibulkova also held off break points a 5-4 that would have evened the set.

Cibulkova, ranked 53rd coming into the tournament was off the tour for five months during 2015 to heal a bone spur. The win puts her back into the Top 40.

She dedicated her victory to her father who celebrated his birthday on Sunday. This was her first win over the Italian in three meetings.

Her last tournament win came in Acapulco in 2014.

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Bouchard Gets First Win of Grass-Court Season at Eastbourne; Cibulkova Returns

By Ros Satar

(June 23, 2015) EASTBOURNE, England – Hot on the heels of Petra Kvitova’s withdrawal, Birmingham champion Angelique Kerber withdrew also citing a viral illness. There was a lot of this going about as Eastbourne’s defending champion had to withdraw from Birmingham with the flu, and as she bowed out in her opener to Belinda Bencic, she lamented the timing, especially with the inclusion of an extra grass court week.

 

She said: “I had the flu [for] almost a week. Yeah, it was lots of laying there thinking I was dying. Then eventually I started feeling a little bit better and was able to start practicing again. Luckily I didn’t actually die. You know, just trying to get back to 100% now.”

 

She continued: “It was kind of nice because it was a perfect schedule. You can get some practice, have two full weeks of grass before going into Wimbledon, and then getting sick and having to pull out of that one week and kind of having to try to jam everything into this week is not ideal, so fingers crossed it doesn’t happen again next year.”

 

There was better news though for Genie Bouchard who turned in her first win on grass this season, and her first win since Rome last month, a 7-6(5), 6-3 victory over Alison Riske.

 

Bouchard said: “I felt good with my game today, happy with the way I fought. I just want to keep going, take another step tomorrow. Regardless of the outcome, I just want to do the right thing tomorrow.”

 

Another good win was the returning Dominika Cibulkova, who has been off the tour since February, after requiring Achilles surgery. To consider her return on one of the toughest surfaces, but that was just how the dates fell, and her return has been great with a run to the third round already.

 

There was plenty to keep the Brits occupied on Tuesday, as Johanna Konta got another great win, this time over a Top 10 player, and her best win to date, although she still preferred to try and keep her feet on the ground.

 

She said: “I’m going to work on not adjusting my mindset, because the way I’m working and the thought process I’m going along with, that is what has given me my best opportunity to play well and that’s why I think I did well today.”

 

Heather Watson was once more the closing act on Centre Court, and she put on a show for the late-staying crowds. Trading breaks at the start of the match, Svitolina battled to convert on a fourth break point to take the advantage in the first, taking the first set.

 

With the second set starting in the same way, this time it was Watson who battled away to finally get a crucial break late in the second, to level things up. The momentum stayed with her at the start of the decider, much to the crowd’s enjoyment, as Watson built up a 4-2 lead. But the nerves hit as Svitolina crept back into the match, breaking straight back. Watson really had to hold her nerve breaking the Ukrainian to pick up her second Top 20 win of the year.

 

It was an emotional Watson who spoke on court straight after the match, thanking the crowd for getting her over the line, and afterwards she explained:

 

“This week was kind of like a new start for me and I just really, I don’t know, I’ve got a lot of emotion in me right now. I think on the court it shows. I’m kind of getting mad at myself sometimes, but I’m also very positive when I win the point.

 

“I think also the crowd today was louder than I think I have ever heard them here at Eastbourne for one of my matches. I just loved every minute of it.”

 

She will face Sloane Stephens next, in what has been a great day for the British women, and Watson comments about Konta:

 

“I have always known Jo can play brilliant. I think it’s now finally coming out now. She played amazing and just throughout the whole match, and I’m just really proud of her.”

 

Play continues in the third round at 11am BST.

Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.

AEGON INTERNATIONAL – EASTBOURNE, GBR
$ 731,000.00
21 – 27 JUNE 2015

RESULTS – JUNE 23, 2015
Women’s
Singles – Second Round

[2] C. Wozniacki (DEN) d [Q] J. Gajdosova (AUS) 76(4) 62
D. Cibulkova (SVK) d [3] L. Safarova (CZE) 76(7) 64
[WC] J. Konta (GBR) d [4] E. Makarova (RUS) 62 64
S. Stephens (USA) d [5] C. Suárez Navarro (ESP) 61 75
[7] E. Bouchard (CAN) d A. Riske (USA) 76(5) 63
[8] K. Pliskova (CZE) d C. Dellacqua (AUS) 64 75
[9] A. Radwanska (POL) d [Q] I. Falconi (USA) 60 62
[10] A. Petkovic (GER) d C. Garcia (FRA) 62 64
H. Watson (GBR) d [11] E. Svitolina (UKR) 36 75 64
B. Bencic (SUI) d [12] M. Keys (USA) 62 62
[13] S. Errani (ITA) d B. Strycova (CZE) 62 67(1) 76(7) (saved 2mp)
[14] G. Muguruza (ESP) d [Q] P. Hercog (SLO) 57 63 60
S. Kuznetsova (RUS) d [15] F. Pennetta (ITA) 63 64
T. Pironkova (BUL) d [16] S. Stosur (AUS) 75 76(0)
[LL] D. Gavrilova (RUS) d C. Giorgi (ITA) 36 76(6) 63 (saved 1mp)
C. Vandeweghe (USA) d [LL] M. Niculescu (ROU) 75 26 61

Women’s
Doubles – First Round

[1] M. Hingis (SUI) / S. Mirza (IND) d M. Krajicek (NED) / K. Pliskova (CZE) 60 62
Y. Chan (TPE) / J. Zheng (CHN) d [3] T. Babos (HUN) / K. Mladenovic (FRA) 76(5) 63
[4] C. Garcia (FRA) / K. Srebotnik (SLO) d K. Jans-Ignacik (POL) / A. Klepac (SLO) 63 64

ORDER OF PLAY – WEDNESDAY, JUNE 24, 2015
CENTRE COURT start 11:00 am
[7] E. Bouchard (CAN) vs B. Bencic (SUI)
[14] G. Muguruza (ESP) vs [WC] J. Konta (GBR)
S. Kuznetsova (RUS) vs [2] C. Wozniacki (DEN)
H. Watson (GBR) vs S. Stephens (USA)
[1] M. Hingis (SUI) / S. Mirza (IND) vs H. Chan (TPE) / F. Pennetta (ITA)

COURT 1 start 11:00 am
D. Cibulkova (SVK) vs T. Pironkova (BUL)
[9] A. Radwanska (POL) vs [8] K. Pliskova (CZE)
C. Vandeweghe (USA) vs [10] A. Petkovic (GER)
[LL] D. Gavrilova (RUS) vs [13] S. Errani (ITA)
[4] C. Garcia (FRA) / K. Srebotnik (SLO) vs [WC] J. Rae (GBR) / A. Smith (GBR)

COURT 2 start 11:00 am
A. Medina Garrigues (ESP) / A. Parra Santonja (ESP) vs J. Goerges (GER) / L. Hradecka (CZE)
C. Black (ZIM) / L. Raymond (USA) vs [Alt] M. Niculescu (ROU) / A. Rodionova (AUS)
After Suitable Rest – [WC] E. Bouchard (CAN) / M. Erakovic (NZL) vs [2] E. Makarova (RUS) / E. Vesnina (RUS)

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Kvitova withdraws from Eastbourne as weather wreaks havoc

Kvitova 2-001

By Ros Satar

(June 22, 2015) EASTBOURNE, England – Top seed Petra Kvitova opted to protect her Wimbledon defence chances by withdrawing from Eastbourne at Monday’s WTA All Access interviews, despite wanting to play doubles with Caroline Wozniacki.

 

The Dane admitted that Kvitova had not felt 100% these past few days and she confirmed that she had felt unwell for a while.

 

Kvitova said: “I started to feel not well when I come here. Maybe from plane. I’m not really sure. I didn’t really feel the best. Like two days ago I really feel sore throat, and I was waiting what gonna happen. It’s not really much better. I didn’t need antibiotics so that’s a good sign. But I have to be in the bed and drink hot tea, I don’t know, just lying and resting.”

 

She confirmed that she would remain in Eastbourne for a few days before heading up to London.

 

“I know that a lot of players don’t play the tournament before. I’m not the only one. I practiced on it, and I still hope that I will have a few days in London, as well. I know I can play well on the grass. I have to still think positively, and I hope I gonna be ready for Wimbledon. I’m playing Tuesday, so it’s still time for it.”

 

It was a frustrating day for the players, being led into the media centre armed with an array of umbrellas as play continued to be put back until the afternoon, when finally the dark clouds cleared for a decent spell of play. There were hints of further disruption from time to time, with the doubles matches and a hefty chunk of singles being cancelled.

 

The day saw the return of the 2014 Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova, returning after a four month absence, after being sidelined with an Achilles injury. She faced British wildcard Harriet Dart, who put up quite a fight in the second set as the pair traded five breaks of serve n the second set before the Slovakian edged ahead.

 

With defending champion Madison Keys being one of the matches bumped to Tuesday, it was left to Heather Watson to lift spirits of fans on Centre Court, as matches were chopped and changed around the courts after the torrential downpours of the afternoon.

 

Heather Watson brought the proceedings on Centre Court to a close with a win over Varvara Lepchenko, as there was barely a hint of the disruption that the schedule is in now.

 

After the match she said: “It definitely wasn’t easy. Varvara’s a great player, so I knew it was going to be tough today. I just had to hang in there. I think we both made quite a few more unforced errors than we would like. But I thought I just stayed tough. Thanks to the crowd for their support and for keeping me going.

 

“I absolutely love playing here on Centre Court. I love it here at Eastbourne. At times I was finding it quite hard with the sun. We had half the court in the sun and half in the shade, but I won’t use that as an excuse.”

 

She plays Elina Svitolina as the last match on Centre Court on Tuesday.

 

Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.

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Serena Williams to face Madison Keys in Australian Open Semifinal

Madison Keys

Madison Keys

(January 28, 2015) No. 1 Serena Williams and No. 35 Madison Keys booked spots in Australian Open semifinals on Wednesday. Keys broke up what could have been an “all-Williams” semifinal when the 19-year-old knocked out 34-year-old Venus Williams 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to reach her first Grand Slam final four.

Serena Williams had a much easier time advancing, dismissing last year’s Australian Open losing finalist Dominika Cibulkova 6-2, 6-2 in 69 minutes, is still on track to try and win her 19th major and sixth Australian Open title.

Statistics tell the story for the world No. 1 American who hit 58 winners including 15 aces and made only 18 unforced errors against the Slovak. Williams has won the title at Melbourne Park each of the five previous times she has advanced to the semifinals.

“I feel I played well,” said Serena. “I felt I had to. I feel like when you’re going up against a player like that who is confident on the court – she just had a few good matches – I knew that I needed to really play well or go home.”

“It was tough match for me today,” No. 11 Cibulkova said. “She was just playing really well today, I have to say. She was putting so much pressure from the serve and return. I didn’t have a chance to play my game. Just felt under so much pressure. It was a good day for her.

“It’s the way I struggle with reading her serves. I just don’t put many first returns in the game. That’s what makes it tough. And also then I feel under a bigger pressure on my serve. That’s why I try to go for much more first serve today. It just didn’t go in. Then my second serve, she was just going for it. Yeah, that’s make it really tough. She tries to make the rallies much shorter and not to get me in the rhythm. Yeah, that’s it.”

In a battle between tennis generations, Venus Williams and Keys, it was the first All-American quarterfinal since Sloane Stephens beat Serena Williams in Melbourne Park back in 2013.

After a dominant first set by Keys, who is now coached by former No. 1 and three-time slam winner Lindsay Davenport, she had to overcome a left leg injury and rally from a break down in the third set to win the match. Keys completed the match with 34 winners to 45 unforced errors, while Venus hit 10 winners to 38 unforced errors. The match saw 12 service breaks.

“I definitely didn’t serve as consistently as I wanted to,” said the seven-time major champion. “I felt like just not as aggressive off the ground as I would have liked. So I think in this kind of match you have to be aggressive. Like I said, I give a lot of credit to her because she really set her points up. She was swinging freely. Most of them went in for her. So it was just, you know, great for her.”

“It already feels like a long season already, so many matches in a row,” Williams said. “But it’s a great start. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep this level up.”

Venus is 9-1 on the year, having won the tournament in Auckland.

“I think she played really well,” Venus said “Of course, I have to give credit to her just for playing well, landing a lot of great shots I think is ultimately — ultimately she played really well.

Venus hadn’t reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam since the U.S. Open in 2010 since being diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome in 2011, an auto-immune disease which causes fatigue.

“I think just being able to come back from being down and from not being able to move as well, not having as effective of a serve, just being able to kind of grind through that, still figure it out, manage to win some points, is what I’m most happy about,” Keys said about her left abductor injury.

“It was definitely one of those things where it wasn’t nearly as bad as Wimbledon, but it was that nightmare of `I don’t want this to happen again,’” Keys said. “Luckily the pain meds kicked in.”

“I mean, it definitely feels amazing,” said the teenager about the victory. “It’s one of those things where you want to feel this way all the time. But it’s not, you know, this unbelievable excitement either ’cause you want to keep winning and you want to keep doing better. I am very happy and I am very excited, but also not getting too far ahead of myself and being too content where I am.”

This is the third straight year that a teenager has reached the Australian Open semifinals: 2013 – Sloane Stephens, 2014 – Eugenie Bouchard and 2015 – Keys.

“I think Genie and Sloane are both really talented and can play some really good tennis,” Keys said.” It’s not super surprising they made semifinals. But, no, it’s one of those things when you see some of your fellow peers doing well, going deep in tournaments, it’s inspirational. Makes you kind of believe that you can do the same.”

About how Venus sees Keys’ future: “Sky’s the limit. There is no limit on what you can achieve. No one can stop you. Sometimes you may not win every match, but there’s a lot of them you can win. Really the sky’s the limit for her and anyone out there.”

On playing Serena next, Keys said: “It’s just one of those things where I have to go out and I have to do my best and I have to really just have to stay focused on my side of the court, because she’s obviously very, very good and she’s going to play very well. So if I get too focused on what she’s doing I think I can kind of let the moment get away from me. So I’m just really going to stay focused on myself.”

Serena on playing Keys:“I think she likes the surface. I’m just happy to be in the semis, and whatever happens an American will be in the final.”

“She’s playing great. I told her I was really happy that she did well. She’s in the semis. It’s good to see another American, another African American, in the semifinals playing so well. Regardless, there’s going to be an American in the finals, so that is great. It’s also great for me and Venus because we know that finally there’s other Americans that are constantly playing well and playing better, showing that they want to be the world’s greatest.”

On the men’s side of the draw, No. 1 Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka posted straight set wins to reach the semifinals. Djokovic defeated Milos Raonic 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-2 to gain his 25 major semifinal, while defending champion Wawrinka dominated Kei Nishokori with a powerful backhand 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (6).

This sets up a repeat of the last year’s dramatic quarterfinal which Wawrinka won in five sets.

 

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Serena Williams Gets French Open Revenge to Reach Australian Open Quarterfinals

Serena Williams Thursday

(January 26, 2015) Serena Williams gained some revenge at the Australian Open on Monday for an early round loss at the French Open last year, when she rallied to beat Spain’s Garbine Muguruza 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals.

The 18-time major champion, seeking her sixth title in Melbourne lost badly to No. 24 Muguruza in the second round of last year’s Roland Garros 6-2, 6-2. She avenged one of her worst Grand Slam tournament losses with the victory on Monday.

Williams saved six break points in an almost 13-minute game, the second game of the third set. Williams then broke Muguruza’s serve twice before closing the match.

“It was a great match – congratulations to Garbiñe, she played so well,” Williams said in an on-court interview.

“She did everything she needed to do in the first set. For once I didn’t start out slowly, she was just playing so well at the start. She hits the ball really, really big and really, really hard.

“But I started to focus from there and just relaxed a little bit.”

“She made me play a lot better,” Williams said in press. “I had to play the best match of the tournament or else I was going to be out. I think she was just hitting winners like left and right. Every shot I hit, she basically hit a winner on. So I had to change my approach. I was hitting a little bit too much to her.”

“The hardest part, I mean, mentally she’s amazing,” said Muguruza . She’s world No. 1. She has the power to be all the match without saying anything, concentrate, waiting for her opportunity. I mean, the serve, when she serves good, it’s really difficult to return. And then in the back, she’s very strong. So it’s very difficult to find the spot to beat her.

Williams will play Dominika Cibulkova in the quarterfinals. Cibulkova, who reached the final of the Australian Open last year, beat two-time champion Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 under a closed roof in Rod Laver Arena in a very intense match. Due to injuries last year the Belarusian saw her ranking fall into the 40’s and came into the tournament unseeded.

Dominika Cibulkova ©Sony Open Tennis

Dominika Cibulkova ©Sony Open Tennis

The woman from the Slovak Republic hit 44 winners and broke Azarenka seven time during the match. This marks the sixth time that the No. 10 player Cibulkova has reached a major quarterfinal

Today was extremely, extremely good match from my side,” Cibulkova said. “I would say it was a high level of tennis. The first set, the way I played, was just really, really — no mistakes. I was going for my shots and I was just doing the right things. I was really putting her under so much pressure. And then — then she stepped up in the second set much more. She started to serve better and return better. So she kept me out of the — more behind the baseline. Then in the third set I just knew I have to go for it more than hundred percent. I knew I have to be much more aggressive and just stay there and to go for my shots. So, yeah, today was really, really tough one, but I managed to get through. It was such a good match.”

“I take it as a progress,” Azarenka said of her run in Melbourne. “I think there are a lot of the positive things to take from here. It’s a good start. There was some good quality of tennis today, even though the result is not the one that I wanted and not what I was looking for. But I need to be realistic a little bit and keep working hard and try to sharpen my game. I need to be more consistent and I need to be able to take my opportunities when I have them. But overall, I can be pretty happy. But I’m such a perfectionist that I don’t want to be satisfied.”

“She really went for her shots today and was very fearless throughout whole match,” Azarenka said of her opponent. “She’s the type of player that sometimes you just get — she gets in that groove and it’s a little bit difficult to break that rhythm. But I think I still had my opportunities, and I really just didn’t — I wasn’t present enough today, and she was there. She jumped on those opportunities and really took control of that. So I think in that aspect, I have to give her a lot of credit.”

“Well, she is a really good player,” Williams answered when asked about playing Cibulkova. “I mean, to be her size, she hits so hard and she plays so well. She’s just such a power, compact, great player. I just have to stay focused and not underestimate her. She actually almost beat me before. I want to make sure I come ready and prepared.”

Serena Williams has a 4-0 record versus Cibulkova.

 

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2015 Australian Open Women’s Contender Profiles

(January 17, 2015) Profiles of the top Women’s Singles contenders for the 2015 Australian Open. Note: Grand Slam records for main draw matches only.  – by Jack Cunniff     http://twitter.com/jrcunniff

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

2014 Record: 52-8

Grand Slam Record: 259-39

Australian Open Record: 61-9

Australian Open Best Result: Won (2003, ’05, ’07. ’09, ‘10)

Fast Fact: At the Australian Open, Serena has only lost twice to a Top Ten player (2001 to Hingis, 2008 to Jankovic).

 

Maria Sharapova

2014 Record: 49-13

Grand Slam Record: 165-40

Australian Open Record: 42-10

Australian Open Best Result: Won (2008)

Fast Fact: With her win last week in Brisbane, Sharapova has won a title in each of the last 13 years, placing her 4th in the Open Era behind Navratilova (21), Evert (18), and Graf (14).

 

Simona Halep

2014 Record: 46-16

Grand Slam Record: 27-18

Australian Open Record: 6-4

Australian Open Best Result: QF (2014)

Fast Fact: Halep celebrated 50 consecutive weeks in the Top Ten, and will mark her one year anniversary during the Australian Open (reached No. 10 on Jan 27, 2014).

 

Petra Kvitova

2014 Record: 43-16

Grand Slam Record: 64-24

Australian Open Record: 11-6

Australian Open Best Result: SF (2012)

Fast Fact: Kvitova will play her 500th career match in the first round of the Australian Open.

 

Ana Ivanovic

2014 Record: 58-17

Grand Slam Record: 97-39

Australian Open Record: 24-10

Australian Open Best Result: RU (2008)

Fast Fact: Despite having her best season since 2008, Ivanovic lost to lower-ranked players at all of the Grand Slams in 2014.

 

Agnieszka Radwanska

2014 Record: 47-22

Grand Slam Record: 90-34

Australian Open Record: 24-8

Australian Open Best Result: SF (2014)

Fast Fact: Since beating Venus Williams to win 2014 Canadian Open (Montreal), Radwanska has a losing record, 8-9.

 

Eugenie Bouchard

2014 Record: 43-22

Grand Slam Record: 23-7

Australian Open Record: 5-1

Australian Open Best Result: SF (2014)

Fast Fact: Bouchard won more Grand Slam matches in 2014 than any other woman (19).

 

Caroline Wozniacki

2014 Record: 49-19

Grand Slam Record: 79-31

Australian Open Record: 22-7

Australian Open Best Result: SF (2011)

Fast Fact: Wozniacki has a 7-0 record in opening round matches at the Australian Open, the only Grand Slam event that she has not lost in the first round.

 

Angelique Kerber

2014 Record: 47-24

Grand Slam Record: 48-28

Australian Open Record: 11-7

Australian Open Best Result: 4R (2013, ‘14)

Fast Fact: Kerber has a 1-7 record against Top 50 players at the Australian Open.

 

Ekaterina Makarova

2014 Record: 41-21

Grand Slam Record: 48-29

Australian Open Record: 18-7

Australian Open Best Result: QF (2012, ‘13)

Fast Fact: In her last four Australian Open appearances, Makarova has defeated four Grand Slam champions (Ivanovic, S. Williams, Bartoli, V. Williams).

 

Dominika Cibulkova

2014 Record: 32-24

Grand Slam Record: 53-29

Australian Open Record: 13-7

Australian Open Best Result: RU (2014)

Fast Fact: Cibulkova has won only six matches since Wimbledon, as many matches as she won en route to the Australian Open final in 2014.

 

Flavia Pennetta

2014 Record: 33-20

Grand Slam Record: 69-45

Australian Open Record: 13-11

Australian Open Best Result: QF (2014)

Fast Fact: Pennetta had a losing record at the Australian Open until reaching the QF in 2014.

 

Andrea Petkovic

2014 Record: 41-23

Grand Slam Record: 31-20

Australian Open Record: 6-5

Australian Open Best Result: QF (2011)

Fast Fact: Petkovic hasn’t won a match at the Australian Open since 2011 (def. Sharapova 4R).

 

Venus Williams

2014 Record: 32-14

Grand Slam Record: 221-57

Australian Open Record: 41-14

Australian Open Best Result: RU (2003)

Fast Fact: With her 2014 Australian Open appearance, Venus moves into 3rd place in the Open Era with 65 Slam appearances, trailing only Frazier (71) and Navratilova (67).

 

Victoria Azarenka

2014 Record: 15-9

Grand Slam Record: 101-32

Australian Open Record: 32-7

Australian Open Best Result: Won (2012, ’13)

Fast Fact: Azarenka enters a Grand Slam event unseeded for the first time since 2007 U.S. Open, after 27 Slams where she was seeded.

 

 

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