Connect with us


Point-counterpoint: Making the case for Barty and Andreescu – WTA Tennis



Ashleigh Barty is quick to tell reporters that while tennis is her profession, it is not her personal hobby. The World No.1 rarely has the television tuned to tennis when she’s kicking up her feet at home or hotel room.

“I’ve probably seen all of 30 or 40 minutes of tennis over the last 12 or 13 months,” Barty said earlier in the tournament. “It’s not something that I ever flick on and watch.”

Yet, going into her first-ever meeting against Canada’s Bianca Andreescu for the Miami Open championship, Barty had no problem breaking down the 20-year-old’s game perfectly.

“Bianca has shown in big tournaments that she’s got the ability to beat the very best, and I know from the little that I have seen that she’s got a way of moving around the court that’s extremely physical,” Barty said. “She’s got great hands and she’s got options off both sides. She’s got a chisel off both sides and has the ability to flip the ball up or hit through the court.

“I think that’s what makes her game exceptionally challenging is that she has so many different assets and so many different things that she can go to ultimately let her competitor in her figure it out.”

Barty might as well be describing herself.

With 24-year-old Barty taking on Andreescu, 20, in Saturday’s Championship Final at the Miami Open, it pits the two most tactically gifted young players against each other for the first time. Both women possess every shot in the book, the tennis IQ to construct the right play at the right moment and the creativity to improvise and problem-solve when needed.

Question is: Who has the advantage? WTA Senior Writer Courtney Nguyen and Web Editor Alex Macpherson state their cases:

Advantage, Barty

Ashleigh Barty goes into Saturday on an 11-match winning streak in Miami and looking to successfully defend a title for the first time in her career. It’s an impressive return to form for the World No.1, who is playing just her fourth tournament since the 2020 shutdown and has already made her second final.

Playing her first WTA 1000 event since 2020 Doha, Barty will once again have to go through three Top 10 players to capture her 10th career title and second of the season. In 2019, it was No.8 Kiki Bertens, No.2 Petra Kvitova and No.7 Karolina Pliskova. This year, Barty has gone through No.8 Aryna Sabalenka in three tough sets in the quarterfinals and No.5 Elina Svitolina in the semifinals. She has also knocked off two major champions in Jelena Ostapenko and Victoria Azarenka. Andreescu would be her third.

Her even-keeled demeanor and perspective have obscured her dramatic heroics during the tournament. She had every excuse to bow out early against Kristina Kucova, where, after enduring a 50-hour journey from Brisbane to Miami, battling jet lag and playing her first match outside of Australia in over a year, Barty found herself down a match point late in the third set of her opener.

Instead, she fired a confident forehand return winner to wipe out the match point. Then, down 0-40 as she looked to serve out the match at 6-5, she hit back-to-back aces and a volley winner to get out of trouble and close the match and win 6-3, 4-6, 7-5. And in her best match of the tournament against Sabalenka, Barty saved 7 of 7 break points to withstand the barrage of power coming from the Belarusian and win 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3.

If Barty were to lift the trophy on Saturday, she would be the second player to win a title after being down a match point. World No.2 Naomi Osaka did it at the Australian Open.

“I think the confidence, without a doubt, comes from the practice and the training, knowing that I have worked extremely hard with my team to refine my game,” Barty said. “But I think the calmness, almost seeming like everything will be OK in the end, [is because] I know that everything will be OK in the end.

“It’s not going to ruin my day whether I win a tennis match or not. Of course it’s disappointing [if I lose]. I want to try and be the best that I can be and the competitor in me loves to win, but in saying that, the sun will always come up the next day.”

Barty comes into the final battle-tested, rested and confident. Since the start of 2019, the Aussie has won six of the eight finals she has contested, most recently defeating Garbiñe Muguruza at the Yarra Valley Classic in February. She has also won 14 of her 20 matches against Top 10 opposition over that span, including her past five.

While Andreescu has had to go the distance in four straight matches, Barty has been more efficient. The Canadian has spent 12 hours and 4 minutes on court in Miami, compared to Barty’s 9 hours and 13 minutes. Notably, Andreescu’s last four matches have all been played at night. Barty has been a day-session mainstay throughout the tournament. The Queenslander will already be acclimatized to the heat and humidity of a 1 p.m. ET final.

“It’s been a lot warmer,” Barty said. “Physically it’s been quite demanding. I remember [in 2019] we had a lot of rain, a lot of late nights, and a lot of disrupted matches.

“So it’s been a little bit of an adjustment this year, but without a doubt, the quality of tennis has been just as good and just as consistent, which is what obviously you’re after in big events.” — Nguyen 

Advantage, Andreescu 

Back in 2011, Marion Bartoli told the press that the challenge of playing Serena Williams was that she felt Serena was “taking all the space” on court. Bartoli didn’t mean physical space but emotional and psychological space. Regardless of the scoreline, the match and its narrative centered around Serena – unless Bartoli could carve out some of that space for herself.

That’s an insight I often think about when watching Bianca Andreescu. The Canadian has become one of focal points on the WTA Tour, in the best possible way. Often, nothing separates her from her opponent on the scoreboard or even the level of tennis. Regardless, the 2019 US Open champion has a habit of turning every match she plays into the Bianca Andreescu ride. Both her wide repertoire of shots and her vocal exhortations feed into the sense that Andreescu is the star of the show. When she’s up, her tennis can seem irresistible. When she’s down, that’s just the canvas for her to demonstrate her clutch instincts.

The numbers bear this out. Since the start of Indian Wells 2019, Andreescu has played 38 completed matches. Twenty-three have gone to three sets, and she has won 20 of those. In two of her losses, to Simona Halep at the 2019 WTA Finals and Marie Bouzkova in the Phillip Island Trophy semifinals in February, Andreescu held match point. The other was to Naomi Osaka in the 2019 Beijing quarterfinals.

Returning from a year on the sidelines, Andreescu’s penchant for thrills has not been dimmed in 2021. The 20-year-old’s record in deciding sets this year alone is 7-1, a total boosted by four consecutive three-set victories this fortnight in Miami. All have been wild rides:

  • R2: d. [Q] Tereza Martincova 7-6(5), 6-2. Came from 3-5 down and saved two set points in the first set.
  • R3: d. [28] Amanda Anisimova 7-6(4), 6-7(2), 6-4. Went 0-10 on break points before winning the first set on a tiebreak; lost 2-0 lead in second set.
  • R4: d. [12] Garbiñe Muguruza 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. Faced two break points to go down a set and a break.
  • QF: d. Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Won the first set from a double break down, did not hold serve in the second set.
  • SF: d. [23] Maria Sakkari 7-6(7), 3-6, 7-6(4). Saved two set points in the first set, lost second set from a break up, was twice a break down in the decider.

It’s reminiscent of Andreescu’s 2019 Toronto run, in which she won four straight three-setters over Eugenie Bouchard, Daria Kasatkina, Kiki Bertens and Karolina Pliskova en route to the title. That was her first tournament back from a shoulder injury. This is her third following her 2020 hiatus.

A first-time encounter against No.1 seed Ashleigh Barty in the final pits Andreescu’s chaotic spectacle against the Australian’s head-down businesslike demeanour. In tennis terms, a clash between two players who possess every shot in the book is tantalizing. But if Andreescu can drag Barty into playing the match on her terms – a scrap deep in the third set – you’d have to favour her to thrive and notch up another important title on North American hardcourts. — Macpherson 

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


Olympics-U.S. women to face Australia in women’s football at Tokyo Games



(Reuters) – The U.S. women’s national team will face Australia, Sweden and New Zealand at this summer’s Tokyo Olympics, while in the men’s competition 2016 winners Brazil will take on Germany following the group stage draw on Wednesday.

The American women’s team are the reigning world champions and four-time winners of the Olympic tournament and will start as favourites in Tokyo, with Rio 2016 winners Germany failing to qualify.

Team GB women have drawn 2016 bronze medallists Canada, Chile and hosts Japan. Making only their second Olympic tournament appearance, Team GB will be led by England’s interim coach Hege Riise.

On the men’s side, Brazil will take on Germany, Ivory Coast and Saudi Arabia.

Mexico, the 2012 gold medallists, were pitted against hosts Japan, South Africa and France.

The men’s team are usually restricted to selecting players under the age of 23, with just three overage players allowed.

However, the age bracket has been raised for the Tokyo Games in line with the one-year postponement of the event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

Continue Reading


Rafael Nadal rallies from set down to advance in Barcelona



Top seed Rafael Nadal rallied from a set back to beat Ilya Ivashka of Belarus 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 on Wednesday in the second round at the Barcelona Open in Spain.

Nadal lost serve in the opening game of the match and wasn’t able to break Ivashka’s serve throughout the first set. He won just 70.6 percent of points on his first serve, was broken twice and had two double faults in an uncharacteristically poor showing on service in the opening set.

By the second set, he had righted his serve, winning 86.7 percent of points on his first serve in the second set and 83.3 percent in the third. He didn’t face a break point in either set.

In other action, No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, No. 3 Andrey Rublev of Russia, No. 4 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, No. 6 Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain and No. 10 Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada were among those advancing.

No. 9 Fabio Fognini of Italy defaulted for verbal abuse. He was losing 6-0, 4-4 to Zapata Miralles of Spain when the line judge reported him for swearing after a foot fault. He had been warned earlier in the match

Serbia Open

Top seed and home-country favorite Novak Djokovic needed just 68 minutes to top South Korean Soon-woo Kwon 6-1, 6-3 and advance to the quarterfinals in Belgrade, Serbia.

Djokovic capitalized on five of his eight service break opportunities in the win. In the next round, he’ll meet fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic, the eighth seed, who needed three sets to oust Arthur Rinderknech of France 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

Also advancing was the No. 2 seed, Matteo Berrettini, who defeated fellow Italian Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 6-3. Fifth seed Filip Krajinovic beat Nikola Milojevic 6-1, 6-1 in an all-Serb match.


(Field Level Media)

Continue Reading


Ice hockey-Women’s world championships cancelled due to COVID-19



(Reuters) -The women’s ice hockey world championships set to be played in Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia have been cancelled because of a surge in COVID-19 cases in Canada, Hockey Canada said on Wednesday.

The announcement came one day before the 10 teams were to arrive to begin their quarantine ahead of the May 6-16 tournament.

“This is very disappointing news to receive with just a few weeks until the tournament was to begin,” said International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel in a statement.

“We strongly believe that we had the adequate safety measures in place. In the end, we must accept the decision of the government.”

The IIHF and Hockey Canada were informed by the Nova Scotia provincial government on Wednesday that the 10-country tournament could not go ahead due to safety concerns associated with COVID-19.

Still the news came as a shock after Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer had 24 hours earlier given the event the thumbs- up.

“At five o’clock this morning we were full go and at 7:30 am we were not,” explained Hockey Canada chief executive officer Tom Renney. “That is the way the world is right now and there is only so much we can control.

“At the end of the day there is a bigger game than the one we play here and quite honestly it is about the safety of the general public.”

The cancellation was another blow for the women’s game that has endured a number of recent setbacks, including the folding of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

It was also the second consecutive year the Nova Scotia world championships have been stopped by COVID-19.

“Definitely, a little bit of disbelief, a little shock, a lot of emotion,” said Canadian coach Gina Kingsbury, who pulled some players off the ice to deliver the bad news. “This is a group that has been through a lot this past year and two years so they are definitely familiar with disappointing news.”

Both the IIHF and Hockey Canada indicated they plan to play the world championships this year, possibly this summer, in Canada.

“Our intention, and that of the IIHF, is to reconnect with this event as a world championship in 2021 in Canada,” said Renney. “That’s our number one objective. We have every desire to hold this event in Canada.”

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Ed Osmond)

Continue Reading