Pliskova wins Brisbane International for third time

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BRISBANE, Australia — Karolina Pliskova won her third Brisbane International title in four years with a 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 victory over Madison Keys on Sunday.

The second-ranked Pliskova is the first player, male or female, to win the Brisbane-based event three times after wins here in 2017 and last year.

Like her semifinal, when she needed nearly three hours to overcome former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka, Pliskova was made to work hard for victory, needing two hours and seven minutes to edge past Keys.

“It was my last push today, I think I spent quite a lot of time on the courts this week… so finally tomorrow’s a day off for me,” said Pliskova who said her victory would not mean much if she didn’t perform at the Australian Open starting Jan. 20 in Melbourne. “It was a great way to start the year. But of course, Grand Slam or any other tournament, it always starts on zero … there’s nobody really thinking that `oh, she won a tournament two weeks ago.”‘

Pliskova’s serve was again on rhythm as she won a tight first set and then took an early break in the second before Keys rallied to take the final to a deciding set.

In a tight third set, a backhand error by Keys handed Pliskova a chance to serve out the match, but the American broke back to 5-5.

On Keys’ next service game, Pliskova opened up another break point opportunity, which this time she took.

“I don’t think I played amazing tennis today and I was still right in that match, so a lot of very positive things to take away,” Keys said. “I was definitely very happy with, in tight, tense moments, just totally keeping my cool and moving on to the next point.”

In the women’s doubles final top-seeded Barbora Strycova and Hsieh Su-Wei rallied from a set down, and saved a match point in the second set tiebreaker, to beat top-ranked singles player Ash Barty and Kiki Bertens 3-6, 7-6 (7), 10-8.

“A couple points here and there, that’s the beauty and the beast in this kind of format,” Barty said. It’s “kind of on a knife’s edge, it can change really quickly.”

Barty lost her first singles match of the year to American qualifier Jennifer Brady in second-round – after receiving a first-round bye.

The Australian player’s run to the doubles final still earned about $45,000 despite her early singles exit. She’d earlier pledged to donate any prize money she won in Brisbane to the fundraising appeal for victims of Australia’s wildfires.

“With everything that’s been going on in Australia, the way that everyone’s come together has been incredible. All and all, I’m bloody proud to be an Aussie,” Barty said.

Alcaraz loses to Goffin in 1st match as No. 1

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Carlos Alcaraz’s first match as the No. 1-ranked player ended with a straight-set loss to David Goffin at the Astana Open.

The 19-year-old Spaniard lost 7-5, 6-3 in his first tour match since winning the U.S. Open and capturing the No. 1 ranking.

“David was playing really, really well. To come back to competition is never easy,” Alcaraz said. “It’s really tough for me, for my confidence.”

Alcaraz came from 5-2 down to level the first set at 5-5, only to be broken again by his Belgian opponent.

“When you play against the World No. 1 on a big stage, big crowd, the fire inside gives you so much power to play your best tennis because you don’t have any choice,” Goffin said. “You have to fight and give your best and that was the case today.”

Second-seeded Daniil Medvedev and No. 3-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas both avoided similar upsets. Medvedev beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain 6-3, 6-1 and Tsitsipas ousted Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3. 6-4.

Kasatkina knocks out Raducanu at Agel Open

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — Fifth-seeded Daria Kasatkina defeated 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu 7-5, 6-4 to advance to the second round of the Agel Open.

Kasatkina was playing her first match since losing in the first round of the U.S. Open and will next face Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Sixth-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland rallied to eliminate former top-five player Eugenie Bouchard of Canada 6-7 (7), 6-1, while Aliaksandra Sasnovich upset eighth-seeded Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-2.

American qualifiers Alycia Parks and Catherine McNally both advanced. Parks upset Czech Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 7-6 (3) and McNally eased past Anna Blinkova 6-1, 6-2 at the indoor hardcourt event in the Czech eastern city of Ostrava.