Getty Images

Pliskova, Konta continues winning runs in Australia

Leave a comment

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova has carried her title-winning form in the warmup tournament into the season’s first major, dropping just four games en route to the third round at the Australian Open.

Pliskova was leading 6-0, 4-0 against Anna Blinkova in the second round on Thursday before the 18-year-old Russian qualifier, ranked 189th, held serve and later held up her arm to acknowledge the cheers from the crowd. Fifth-seeded Pliskova finished off the 6-0, 6-2 in less than an hour – she won her first-round match 6-2, 6-0.

“It’s always good to be in the zone,” said Pliskova, who won the Brisbane International title earlier this month. “It can always be a bit better.”

Pliskova has reached the third round for three straight years at Melbourne Park, which equaled her best previous run at a Grand Slam until she reached the final in New York last September. She beat Serena Williams in the semifinals at the U.S. Open before losing to Angelique Kerber.

“I’m feeling pretty good on the court, confident,” she said. “Also, people are talking I have a good chance to win a Grand Slam, but we are just in third round, so let’s see.”

She will next play Jelena Ostapenko, who beat No. 31 Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 6-1.

Johanna Konta, who made a surprising run to the semifinals in her debut Australian Open last year before losing to eventual champion Kerber, advanced to the third round with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Naomi Osaka.

Konta, voted the WTA Tour’s most improved player of 2016 after moving from 48th to 10th in the rankings, opened the season by winning the Sydney International title last week.

Konta will next play former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki, the U.S. Open semifinalist last September. Wozniacki was broken while serving for the match against Donna Vekic, but immediately broke back at love to win 6-1, 6-3.

WTA Finals winner Dominika Cibulkova held off Hsieh Su-wei 6-4, 7-6 (8) and will next play No. 30 Ekaterina Makarova, who was leading 6-2, 3-2 when Sara Errani retired because of a leg injury.

No. 21 Caroline Garcia beat Oceane Dodin 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-4.

In men’s second-round matches, No. 18 Richard Gasquet beat Carlos Berlocq 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 and No. 32 Philipp Kohlschreiber beat Donald Young 7-5, 6-3, 6-0.

No. 30 Pablo Carreno Busta had a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 win over Kyle Edmund to move into a third-round match against either six-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic or Denis Istomin.

Andy Murray returned to the practice court for an afternoon hitting session under the scrutiny of coach Ivan Lendl, allaying concerns about his injured right ankle. Top-ranked Murray, a five-time runner-up at Melbourne Park, twisted his ankle and tumbled to the court during the third set of his otherwise routine second-round win on Wednesday night.

Sharapova loses to Rybarikova at Kremlin Cup

AP Photo
Leave a comment

MOSCOW (AP) Maria Sharapova was beaten by Magdalena Rybarikova 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the first round of the Kremlin Cup on Tuesday, ending her bid for a second title in two weeks.

Sharapova, who won the Tianjin Open two days ago, brought her usual power but lacked accuracy with some wild swings on key points.

“I felt fine physically, to be honest, especially after having played five matches in five days (in Tianjin). That was a big surprise,” Sharapova said. “Maybe I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been … Maybe if this tournament hadn’t been in Moscow, I wouldn’t have played it.”

Sharapova was under pressure on serve from the start and saved six break points before finally being broken to 6-5. She responded by breaking Rybarikova, but Sharapova’s double fault at 4-3 in the tiebreaker handed the Slovakian the momentum to close out the set.

Rybarikova, seeded eighth, sealed the match after saving two break points to lead 5-4, then breaking Sharapova in the next game. Rybarikova will play Alize Cornet in the second round.

Six months after she returned from a 15-month doping ban, Sharapova is still trying to move back up the rankings from her current position of 57th. Her first tour appearance in Moscow in a decade drew a large and enthusiastic crowd despite taking place on a Tuesday afternoon.

Also Tuesday, seventh-seeded Julia Goerges beat Russian qualifier Polina Monova 6-0, 6-3 to set up a second-round meeting with Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan.

In the men’s Kremlin Cup tournament, sixth-seeded Damir Dzumhur defeated Thomas Fabbiano 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.

Maria Sharapova wins her 1st title since doping ban

AP Images
2 Comments

TIANJIN, China (AP) Maria Sharapova won her first WTA title since returning from a doping ban after defeating Aryna Sabalenka to win the Tianjin Open on Sunday.

The Russian, a tournament wild card, overcame Belarusian teenager Sabalenka 7-5, 7-6 (8) despite trailing heavily in both sets.

Sharapova last won a title at the Italian Open in May 2015.

The former top-ranked player and owner of five major titles, including the 2006 U.S. Open, tested positive for the newly banned drug meldonium at the Australian Open in January 2016. That led to a 15-month doping ban, which expired in April.

“Such a special, special tournament, and victory for me, one that I’ll remember forever,” Sharapova said. “Sometimes you never know when it will all come together but it happened to me this week in Tianjin.”

Sharapova displayed resilience as she came from behind in both sets to overcome her 19-year-old opponent.

Sabalenka led 4-1 in the opener and 5-1 in the second before relenting to Sharapova’s greater big-match experience. It was Sharapova’s 36th WTA singles title.

The 30-year-old Sharapova played in her first Grand Slam tournament following the ban at the U.S. Open in August, where she reached the fourth round. Sunday’s result will lift Sharapova up to No. 57 in the world rankings.