Ashleigh Barty continues quest for 2nd straight title

Getty Images
2 Comments

CHARLESTON, S.C. — World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty continued her quest for a second straight title, rallying past Shelby Rogers to reach the quarterfinals at the Volvo Car Open.

The top-seeded Barty hadn’t played in an 11-month stretch from Feb. 2020 until the Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne, Australia in January due to the coronavirus pandemic. She’s gone 18-2 since her return with a pair of championships including last week’s Miami Open.

Rogers, the 28-year-old from nearby Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, gave Barty a challenge, charging from behind to win the second set and tying things at 4-all in the third.

But the Australian won the last two games to close out the match, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-4, at the season’s first clay-court event.

“It has been a very quick turnaround,” she said of changing surfaces. “I’m still allowing myself time to get used to that. But with each match, that will get better and better.”

Barty will face Paula Badosa of Spain for a spot in the semifinals. Badosa defeated American Catherine McNally 6-3, 6-3.

Barty is the only one of the top eight seeds still around.

Others in the final eight include former U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, who hadn’t advanced to a tournament quarterfinals since the French Open in 2019.

Stephens, the American who won her grand slam title in 2017, ousted Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic 6-3, 6-4. Stephens will play for a spot in the semifinals against Russian Veronika Kudermetova. Kudermetova, seeded 15th in the season’s first clay-court event, topped Kurumi Nara of Japan 6-0, 6-3.

Stephens had been on a slide the past two seasons, falling from No. 3 in the world to 57th entering this event. But she’s won three times here, winning 11 of the final 12 points against Tomljanovic.

Things are starting to come together, Stephens said.

“Just getting my competitiveness back, I think, makes me happy,” she said. “And being able to fist pump without fighting my own brain, it’s nice.”

Also reaching the quarters is the youngest competitor here in 17-year-old American Coco Gauff, the 14th seed who defeated countrywoman Lauren Davis 6-2, 7-6 (2).

Gauff has advanced to the quarterfinal round in three of last four tournaments. She said when she lost several points in a row in the second set against Davis, she snapped herself back into the match.

“I try and keep track of that because sometimes you lose focus for 10-15 minutes and that’s three or four games,” she said.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, seeded third, fell to Danka Kovinic of Montenegro, 6-4, 6-1.

The sixth seed, Garbine Muguruza of Spain, was ahead in her match with Yulia Puntintseva of Kazakhstan before retiring with a left leg injury.

Alycia Parks reaches 1st WTA quarterfinal in Ostrava

alycia parks
Robert Prange/Getty Images
1 Comment

OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — American qualifier Alycia Parks is having quite the breakthrough tournament in Ostrava.

The 21-year-old Parks earned her first win against a top-10 ranked opponent by beating fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 at the Agel Open on Thursday to reach her first WTA Tour quarterfinal.

The 144th-ranked Parks ousted former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in the opening round – her first win against a top-20 opponent – and showed off her power by hitting 59 winners against Sakkari, compared to just nine for her opponent.

“I came out here not expecting anything, just playing my game, and it got me through the match,” Parks said.

Parks will next face former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who advanced via walkover when Belinda Bencic withdrew with a left foot injury.

Caty McNally, another American qualifier who is playing doubles with Parks in Ostrava, also reached the last eight by beating wild-card entry Karolina Muchova 6-1, 3-6, 6-1. McNally is also into her first WTA quarterfinal and will face top-ranked Iga Swiatek, who advanced Wednesday.

Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters

novak djokovic
Nir Keidar/Getty Images
0 Comments

ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Add Botic van de Zandschulp to the long list of players to have been schooled by Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic eased past Van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-1 on Thursday in his first career meeting with the 27-year-old Dutchman to reach the quarterfinals of the Astana Open.

Van de Zandschulp earned one break point in each set but couldn’t seriously threaten Djokovic, who is looking for a second straight indoor hardcourt title after winning in Tel Aviv last week.

“(In the) second set I think I started to read his serve better and just started swinging through the court more,” Djokovic said. “Botic is a quality tennis player. When he has time, he can hurt you, so I tried to take away that time from him and I’m very pleased with the way I played, particularly in the second.”

Djokovic will next face Karen Khachanov, who rallied to beat Marin Cilic 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. If the 21-time Grand Slam champion gets past that one, he could come up against fellow former No. 1 Daniil Medvedev. The second-seeded Russian beat Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 6-3, 6-2 to move one match away from a potential rematch of last year’s U.S. Open final, when Medvedev beat Djokovic to deny his attempt at a calendar-year Grand Slam.

Medvedev will first have to beat Roberto Bautista Agut, who advanced Wednesday.