Sunday, January 23Sports News Portal

Tennis

Halep, Osaka, Kasatkina book quarterfinal spots at Melbourne 250s

Second-round action at Melbourne Summer Set 1 saw both No.2 seed Simona Halep and No.1 seed Naomi Osaka breeze into the quarterfinals in around an hour. Meanwhile at Melbourne Summer Set 2, No.3 seed Daria Kasatkina picked up her first win over Madison Keys in eight career meetings.

Simona Halep defeated a familiar face at Melbourne Summer Set 1 on Thursday, as the former World No.1 took out her fellow Romanian Elena-Gabriela Ruse, 6-2, 6-1 to reach the quarterfinals. The No.2 seed was joined later by No.1 seed Naomi Osaka, who dispatched Maryna Zanevska 6-1, 6-1.

“Very happy that I could win this match in this way,” Halep said on court, after the clash. “The beginning was a little bit different, so I didn’t feel the ball great, but slowly I started to feel the game, and I think I was dominating the match.

“I’m very happy with the way I played. I worked a lot in the off-season, so I feel ready to play matches. Actually, I missed playing official matches a lot, so here I am, and I try every time to give my best.”

Recent rivals and teammates: No.2 seed Halep needed just 61 minutes to best her rising compatriot for the second time in the last three months. Halep also stopped Ruse in the first round of the Cluj-Napoca event in their home country in October.

The pair had to put aside their recent teamwork in doubles. Ruse has been Halep’s doubles partner in Halep’s last two doubles events, including this week in Melbourne, where they fell in the first round to No.2 seeds Bernarda Pera and Katerina Siniakova.

Fast facts: As recently as last July, Ruse had been outside the Top 200, but she claimed her first WTA singles title last summer in Hamburg and is currently ranked World No.87.

Yet Ruse had never beaten a Top 20 player in five previous attempts, and that streak continued with her loss to Halep, ranked No.20. Halep has not lost a match to a fellow Romanian since 2010.

Next up: Halep will now face No.6 seed Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland in the quarterfinals. Golubic was one of last year’s biggest ranking improvers, with her ranking rising 94 spots during the 2021 season.

“At this level, everyone is playing well,” said Halep. “I’m just focusing on myself, as I did these two matches. I’m playing well, I’m confident, but it’s a new match. I’m just trying to enjoy and play my best tennis, because if I play my best tennis, I have a chance to win.”

Osaka speeds through, Zheng Qinwen reaches first WTA QF

Like Halep’s clash with Ruse, the night session between Osaka and Maryna Zanevska pitted a former World No.1 and multiple major champion against a player who had won her maiden WTA title and cracked the Top 100 in 2021. Once again, the established name asserted her authority quickly, with Osaka moving through in just 58 minutes.

Defending Australian Open champion Osaka extended her winning streak in Melbourne to 12 matches, and 21 of her last 22, with a sharp performance that included 11 winners and a 90% first-serve winning percentage.

By contrast World No.82 Zanevska, who lifted her first WTA trophy in Gdynia last July, was beset by 40 unforced errors, including six double faults. The Belgian had few answers for Osaka’s weight of shot over the course of the match.

Osaka will next face former World No.9 Andrea Petkovic, who has featured in two of her most significant tournaments previously. At Stanford 2014, Osaka qualified to make her WTA main-draw debut and turned heads with an upset of Samantha Stosur – but fell 6-2, 6-2 to the German in the second round. Five years later, she would gain a 6-2, 6-0 revenge en route to the 2019 Beijing title. Petkovic sealed her first outdoor hardcourt quarterfinal since Guangzhou 2018 with a 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 win over Clara Burel.

No.126-ranked qualifier Zheng Qinwen, 19, reached the first WTA quarterfinal of her career with an impressive 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 defeat of Vera Zvonareva in two hours and 45 minutes. The Chinese teenager came from a set and a break down to triumph against the 37-year-old former World No.2.

Thursday’s other winners at Summer Set 1 include Ana Konjuh of Croatia, who defeated Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, and Anastasia Potapova of Russia, who came through 6-4, 6-7(4), 7-5 against qualifier Anna Bondar of Hungary. A knife-edge encounter saw Potapova pull away at the end, winning 12 of the last 15 points after Bondar served for the match at 5-4 in the third set.

Kasatkina garners long-awaited win over Keys at Summer Set 2

Meanwhile, in the Melbourne Summer Set 2 event at the same site, No.3 seed Daria Kasatkina of Russia at last notched a victory over one of her frequent opponents when she outlasted American Madison Keys 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-3 in the second round.

Keys had dominated the rivalry between the two former Top 10 players with a commanding 7-0 head-to-head lead (14-1 in sets) in their previous matches. But Kasatkina finally turned the tables, taking the 2-hour and 13-minute tussle and moving into the quarterfinals.

“Madison, she’s an excellent player, she’s very talented and she’s got amazing shots,” Kasatkina said on court, after her win. “I think the level [today] was pretty high.”

Kasatkina had to take a medical time-out for her shoulder in the second set but she prevailed regardless, as she seeks another title in Australia. Kasatkina won the Phillip Island Trophy in Melbourne last season.

More Thursday winners at Summer Set 2 include Amanda Anisimova of the United States, who beat No.5 seed Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-4, 6-1, and Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania, who outlasted Italy’s Jasmine Paolini, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.

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