sábado, 31 de enero de 2015
World No.1 Serena Williams has claimed her sixth Australian Open title and the 19th Grand Slam of her stellar career, overwhelming a defiant Maria Sharapova 6-3 7-6(5) at Rod Laver Arena on Saturday night.
The 33-year-old is now the oldest Australian Open champion of the Open era, maintaining her unblemished record in title matches at Melbourne Park in a final that lasted one hour, 50 minutes.
Only Steffi Graf, with 22 titles, has won more majors since 1968, while the victory saw Williams surpass Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova on the list of women’s major singles title-winners. Williams overcame a coughing fit as the roof was closed for rain midway through the first set, returning to win four of the next five games as she outhit and outran the world No.2.
Sharapova dug deep to stay in touch with the American throughout the second set despite her struggles on serve, fending off a championship point at 4-5 and a second in the tiebreak, but Williams finished the match in style, firing an 18th ace to seal the title. The victory is the 16th in succession for Williams over Sharapova, and is her first Australian Open title since 2010.
viernes, 30 de enero de 2015
Sharapova’s poor track record against the world No.1 is both a cause for concern and potent fuel for the fire to set the record straight at last in a blockbuster Australian Open final. Sharapova’s only hiccup, and it was a big one, was having to save two match points in her second round match against Alexandra Panova.
Since that match, nobody has taken more than three games in a set against Sharapova. She is certainly making the most out of her second life here in Melbourne.
Williams has been good without being great, dropping the opening set in her third-round match against Elina Svitolina, and the same in her fourth-round encounter against Garbine Muguruza. Sharapova is a chance – actually a better chance than normal – to turn the tables on Williams. Points will be very short, with a premium on serves, returns and the first shot immediately after that for each player. For example, the average rally length in the Williams v Dominika Cibulkova match was only 3.3 shots – less than two shots for each player. Williams sees her advantage as being in deconstructing the point before it even begins.
Sharapova has got to counter this strategy by being a step ahead in the guessing game as to where Williams will attack first. Serve location will be a key to the final. In the deuce court so far, Williams is serving more out wide (66) than down the middle (51). In the ad court, Williams’ favourite location is definitely down the middle, where almost two out of three (63 middle, to 37 wide) first serves have gone for the tournament.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova claim the Australian Open women’s doubles crown with a straight-sets Win
Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Czech Lucie Safarova have claimed the Australian Open 2015 women’s doubles crown in their first tournament together, after an entertaining and hard-fought victory over 14th seeds Yung-Jan Chan (Chinese Taipei) and Jie Zheng (China) 6-4 7-6(5) at Rod Laver Arena on Friday.
The match was close throughout, but it was Mattek-Sands and Safarova who were able to take advantage of the opportunities when they were presented.
The unseeded duo saved their best tennis for the key moments, coming back from a break down early in the first set and again in the second – after Mattek-Sands required treatment on her leg – to push their more experienced opponents to a tiebreaker.
They once again found themselves up against it but – with the match potentially looking to go to a decider – they managed to dig deep and take it out in straight sets. Coming back from injury, the win marks the second Australian Open title for Mattek-Sands after she won the mixed doubles title in 2012 with Romanian Horia Tecau.
It is Safarova’s first Grand Slam title. “I think a big part of it is me and Lucie are really good friends,” Mattek-Sands said. “Communication's huge. Whether we were down in a match, up in a match, we were having fun. I think that helps teams really play well.
“It literally was one tournament initially,” Mattek-Sands continued. “Obviously we'll be playing some more.” “It's just so special,” said Safarova.
“It's hard to describe the feelings. It's like such a huge happiness, because to be a Grand Slam champion, it's just the best you can have.”
“Our name is carved on this trophy,” added Mattek-Sands. “It's pretty cool. It's got a lot of great names on there. We get to add ours now.”
jueves, 29 de enero de 2015
Q. Two Grand Slam finals in under 12 months. How does that feel for you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I don't actually look at it that way. I treat each one as if I haven't gotten to a final. That's usually the mindset I have, the hunger I try to get when I go out on the court. But, yeah, I'm definitely proud that I'm able to get to that stage again.
Q. How special is it to be in the final again here at the Australian Open for you?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It is. I felt that I've had really good matches and a good record here in Australia, even since the junior days. Been able to carry it over as a professional. Yeah, I've had many great memories on Rod Laver Arena. I've hopefully set myself up for another good one.
Q. The way you played, especially in the last couple rounds, does that give you a lot of confidence going into the final?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I'm definitely happy. Like today, I thought I played solid. I did everything I had to do. I wasn't afraid for it to become a physical match. You know, I think it was important to really stand my ground in the first few games, which I did well, even though I was behind, especially the first and second one. But, yeah, those key moments are really important. Yeah, definitely happy I was able to win really solid today.
Q. You're going to be playing someone who is either a bit sick or a bit injured. How do you feel? MARIA SHARAPOVA: I feel good, thank you (smiling).
Q. Once you reach the final of a Grand Slam, do you change your preparations at all because it is a final or do you tend to stick to the same routines?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I usually stick to the same routines. The only difference is it's only one more to go. You're not saving yourself for anything else. You don't have six more or seven more. You know that that's the last one. You have to give it everything you have until the last point.
Q. Do you get that extra bit of nerves when it is a Grand Slam final?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, of course. I think everyone does. It's such a special moment. I think everyone works endless hours to get to that position. I think we wouldn't be human if we didn't feel extra nerves.
Q. And extra excitement?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, of course. I think nerves equals excitement in a certain way because you know something pretty big is ahead of you.
Q. What impressed you most about her game? First time you played her.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I was impressed by her ability to stay in the match. You know, she never let up at all till the end. I think that is a really great quality to have.
Q. What were you most happy about with your game today?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, I was just happy to get through it today. And I think I was able to serve big when I needed to. So that really helped me out a lot.
Q. What does her ball feel like compared to other players you go up against?
SERENA WILLIAMS: She hits a very, very hard ball, but she also hits it very deep. So it's a little different trying to prepare for that. But, yeah, so I wasn't ready really for that.
Q. How is your health? You've been coughing a lot during and after matches. Is that something that's been bothering you for a long time or just the last week or so?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Just the last week, but I'm doing much better. Much better today. Every day I'm getting better. So, yeah, I'm feeling a lot better than I did the past couple of days.
Q. You said on court you were surprised; didn't expect to be in the finals this time.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Yeah.
Q. Just because of Hopman Cup? You won Singapore, the US Open, why were you thinking it wouldn't set up for you here?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Wow, put it that way. Yeah, I didn't play well, I don't think, at Hopman. I was so off. I felt like I wasn't moving well. I just wasn't feeling great on the court. It's been so long since I've even been in a final here. I was kind of like, Oh, let me just try. My theory now is to relax and play the match as best as I can. When I step on the court and hear the announcer, I don't have to win anymore. I can just relax and have fun.
miércoles, 28 de enero de 2015
Whatever’s in the air, the world No.1 is now two wins away from that title, producing a performance so punishing in its authority that Dominika Cibulkova didn’t have a chance.
With Serena winning their quarterfinal 6-2 6-2 in five minutes more than an hour, she completed her fifth win over last year’s finalist, shrugging off a lingering scratchy cough to produce one of her most clinical displays of the tournament. It may not have looked that way from the start.
Serena hit four errors in the opening game as Cibulkova put all her pint-sized energy into her serve. The world No.1 got on the board herself a matter of minutes later, and then, calmly and quietly, set about wreaking match-winning havoc. Breaking Cibulkova to 15 with a barrage from the back, Serena wheeled away into a 5-1 lead, allowing the Slovakian just one more game before taking the set. It had been 28 minutes and she’d hardly broken a sweat. Producing 16 winners, eight of them aces, and keeping the majority of rallies short, the 18-time major champion was on a cruise down the Yarra in the early afternoon sun, a welcome break from Melbourne’s rather chilly weather.
The second set went similarly. Williams broke to love to continue the rout and although she faced two break points when serving at 2-1, she dispatched two lethal serves, one of them an ace, to save both. Breaking again at 4-2 as she forced a forehand error, again from the back, the match was been and gone five minutes later.
One more ace, her 15th, for match point, and a huge second serve delivery wrapping it all up. Finishing with 31 winners to seven from Cibulkova, 18 unforced errors apiece, it was as good a quarterfinal as Serena could wish for, bringing her total time on court this Australian Open to eight hours and 11 minutes – three hours less than the Isner/Mahut marathon.
Where Serena particularly succeeded was in taking time away from Cibulkova, shortening the points and not allowing the Slovakian her favoured habit of pressing and pressing from the back.
Teenager Madison Keys overcomes injury to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal and finally end veteran Venus Williams’ Australian Open 2015, winning 6-3 4-6 6-4.
Madison Keys fought back from injury and a break down in the final set to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal, ending Venus Williams’ semi-charmed run at the Australian Open with a hard-fought 6-3 4-6 6-4 victory. The 19-year-old was dictating play against Williams, the oldest Grand Slam quarterfinalist since Chris Evert at the 1989 US Open at the age of 34, before a recurrence of the left thigh injury suffered at Wimbledon 2014 hampered her movement and serve midway through the second set.
Williams looked set to take full advantage of her opponent’s condition but Keys rallied from 3-1 down in the final set with a display as impressive for her guts as her game. She clinched victory with her seventh break of the match in one hour, 54 minutes, setting up a semifinal showdown with world No.1 Serena Williams, her third successive all-American showdown in Melbourne.
“The moment is definitely sweeter being able to play Venus,” said Keys, who got into the sport after admiring a Williams tennis dress at the age of four.
“It’s amazing – you just have to embrace the moment – I did, and I get to enjoy another moment in the next round.”
martes, 27 de enero de 2015
Q. How did you feel the match turned in your favor? At the beginning it was close, and at the end you kept winning every game.
EKATERINA MAKAROVA: Well, I just tried to stay solid and to play my game. She's a tough opponent, and I lost to her already two years ago. She doesn't miss a lot, so every point we had really tough one and really long one. I tried to be more aggressive more to win this point because she never miss and she never give up. So I tried to stay solid and to keep my game.
Q. Two Grand Slam semifinals in a row now. Do you feel comfortable this deep into a tournament now?
EKATERINA MAKAROVA: Yes, I do. Yeah, I don't know, I'm so comfortable here. It's all atmosphere and all that maybe memories from New York. I bring it here. It's really, like, enjoying really nice time for me.
Q. How much do you think your doubles success at the Grand Slams has helped in the singles now making you feel more comfortable into the semifinals and quarterfinals?
EKATERINA MAKAROVA: Well, I don't think that doubles helps me to understand that situation in quarters and in semis. It's a different situation. We have such fun with Elena. She's a great person, and I'm really enjoying to play with her. I've been before so many times in the quarters. I need some time to used to it, to understand that it's a little bit different game starting on that level. So now I'm pretty understanding how it is, and I'm so happy that I came through today.
Q. Does the doubles ever get in the way? You play again this afternoon. I imagine would be easier to recover and relax than play again today.
EKATERINA MAKAROVA: Well, I don't know. I want to go and play my doubles. I will practice some shots which I need to practice. It's nice time. I think I will have a rest tomorrow. So that's good schedule for me.
Q. You were saying the other day how you feel shy as a person. Does that affect you on the tennis court? Do you feel nervous out there? It seems like you're playing very confidently.
EKATERINA MAKAROVA: No, I'm not shy on the tennis court. It's a big stage. It's different, yeah, maybe situation when I'm sitting here and you are asking me questions. But over there, yeah, I'm showing my best tennis. That's what I'm really love to do and for what I'm living actually. It's really enjoyable time out there.
Sharapova gave Bouchard a tennis lesson at Rod Laver Arena, romping to a 6-3 6-2 victory in just one hour and 18 minutes. It extends her head-to-head record against the Canadian to a perfect 4-0, and sends her through to her seventh Australian Open semifinal, where she will face compatriot Makarova.
“I'm also facing an opponent (Makarova) that wasn't necessarily a favorite coming into that stage. That's always a tricky situation because she's going to come into that match free and almost happy to be in that situation, and that's dangerous,” Sharapova said.
“I haven't faced a lefty in this tournament yet. She's been using her lefty serve extremely well from what I've seen. I'll be looking out for that, work on a few things tomorrow, and be ready for that match.” But back to her quarterfinal against the Canadian. Comparisons between two blonde, marketable, media-savvy athletes are perhaps too easy. But in the case of Sharapova and Bouchard, the similarities run deeper than that.
Both like to dictate from the baseline with aggressive, first-strike tennis. Both are highly driven and intense competitors, with a reputation for their iciness and mental toughness. Both may not be the most technically-gifted tennis players, but make up for that with their grit and desire. And Sharapova was Bouchard’s idol growing up and; earlier in her career, the Canadian even asked Sharapova if she could wear the Russian’s Nike clothing line, which she now competes in.
lunes, 26 de enero de 2015
Dominika Cibulkova wins a cracker of a last 16 match to beat the twice former champion Victoria Azarenka, 6-2 3-6 6-3.
Good things come to those who wait. And Dominika Cibulkova has been waiting a year to come back to Rod Laver Arena, to the court that propelled her 161 centimetres from being recognisable to global. Australian Open 2015 has also been waiting. For a quality women’s match to do for women’s tennis what Nick Kyrgios and Andy Murray did for men’s tennis on Sunday night. In Cibulkova and Victoria Azarenka, they got it. The two players arrived at this first Grand Slam of the year in similar circumstances. Azarenka, twice a champion, was unseeded for the first time at a Slam since 2007 having spent much of last year on an injury hiatus. While Cibulkova, whose pocket rocket tennis took everyone aback here 12 months ago, had won just six out of 18 matches since Wimbledon. But it seems familiar turf can bring out the best in a player, no matter their pre-match pedigree. Nick Kyrgios would agree. And so it was that the two Europeans contested a blistering display of 76 winners that cleaned up the court, Cibulkova winning with a cross between a shriek, a yell and a shout, 6-2 3-6 6-3.
“I just walk on the court and all these great memories came to my mind,” she beamed, threatening to burst with the elation of it all.
“Today was extremely, extremely good match from my side.
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.”
Madison Keys makes her first major quarterfinal, ousting compatriot Madison Brengle in straight sets. Australian Open 2015
American Madison Keys makes her first major quarterfinal, ousting compatriot Madison Brengle in straight sets on Monday.
Move over Nick Kyrgios, there’s another teenager in the Australian Open 2015 quarterfinals. Madison Keys emerged victorious in Monday’s battle of the Madisons, blasting her way past compatriot Madison Brengle 6-2 6-4 at Margaret Court Arena.
Perhaps battle isn’t the word. At times the all-American fourth-round showdown was less a title bout at Madison Square Garden than a stroll down Madison Avenue for Keys.
The 19-year-old twinned her potent firepower with a newfound consistency that she will hopes to carry into her first major quarterfinal against Venus Williams, her opponent in the last eight. “It will be a tough match,” Keys admitted, and a rather different match to her showdown with Brengle. “Venus is a big hitter, has a great serve, and can be very much on the offense.” Brengle hustled and harried Keys as best she could in the second set, but the world No.35 dealt with her nerves to serve out the victory in exactly an hour. Keys – the younger, higher-ranked of the two – was simply too powerful when it mattered for Brengle, also playing her first fourth-round match at a Grand Slam having made her debut at the Australian Open in 2007.
It has been a month-long tale of grit and guile in Australia for Brengle, the 10th of 13 Americans currently ranked in the WTA top 100 coming into the Australian Open. A qualifier-come-finalist in Hobart in the build-up to Melbourne, her 2015 season is already 17 matches old, a run that will elevate her into the top 50 next week. And to think it might not have happened had she not been given the all-clear after surgery to remove a cancerous lesion by her knee late last year.
Q. She made you play very well today and really elevate your game. Talk about the first set in particular, what was she doing?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, yeah, she made me play a lot better. 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.
Q. You seemed to go up a level in the second and third sets. When that happens, is that a conscious thing?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think I've been playing for a long time. When I have to go up a level, I have to. I can't afford to stay at the same level or I will be where I was at the French Open. I definitely didn't want to be there without at least trying to give 1000%.
Q. You mentioned on court you were coughing a little bit. Have you been under the weather? There's been a bug.
SERENA WILLIAMS: Has there? I think I caught that bug. Yeah, no, I've just been sick. I've been fighting it with vitamin C and all kinds of stuff. But I just have a really bad cough.
Q. You feel better now?
SERENA WILLIAMS: Definitely better than yesterday. So, yeah, I'm feeling a little better.
Q. You've got Cibulkova next. Finalist last year. What do you have to do to beat her this time? SERENA WILLIAMS: Well, she is a really good player. 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.
Q. When that person in the stands called out, Use some spin, did you follow up on that?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I did. I was like, you're right. I'm trying to do that anyway, but I wasn't doing it. So my fan coach was like, Use some spin, Serena. I was like, Okay, okay. It's been like really great. I hear my name throughout the whole stadium like 360. I don't get that everywhere. It feels good.
Q. Why do you think there's such an in and out in terms of getting that?
SERENA WILLIAMS: I think when you win often, sometimes people want other people to win. They forget that you want to keep winning, too. And that's okay. You know, I'm used to it.
domingo, 25 de enero de 2015
A good way of understanding the serve in tennis is that it is far more like a boomerang than an arrow. Boomerangs come back, like most serves, but we tend to think of it more like an arrow – an object with a one-way ticket. Agnieszka Radwanska does not have the quickest serve at Australian Open 2015 – far from it. Her fastest is 171km/h, which ranks her a distant 61st down the serve speed list, which is led by Serena Williams at 204km/h. There are actually 36 men who have not hit 204km/h this tournament. Ouch. But the speed of Radwanska’s arrow means little – proven by the fact she is the runaway leader in service games won, winning 92 per cent (22 of 24) – much better than Serena’s 79 per cent, who has been broken five times out of 29 service games. Radwanska will now battle Serena’s sister, Venus, in Monday’s Match of the Day, and her ability to hold serve will be the most critical dynamic in the match. So far at AO 2015, 78 per cent of serves are being returned in the women’s draw – that’s a lot of boomerangs!
Radwanska is right around that average, but Venus is one of the best performers, with only 64 per cent of her serves coming back into play. Venus wants first-strike tennis, and uses the power of her serve to set that up. Radwanska wants to rally, and gain the ascendency one shot at a time. Radwanska is leading the tournament in baseline points won at 62 per cent (108 of 173), while Venus is also producing a respectable total of 54 per cent won (127 of 235).