Wednesday’s Set Points, WTA Rome: Makarova beats Cibulkova again, Kontaveit’s best win

Set PointsTuesday was another busy day in Rome with 13 second round matches – i’m mostly frustrated this week as I can’t watch much of the tennis. While I generally can’t stand Madrid, their late scheduling of matches was handy! Starting with the matches where I did get to see some tennis…

Elina Svitolina scored a good win over Alizé Cornet, saving three set points in the second set to win, 6-4 7-6(11). Both players had their opportunities in an entertaining second set tiebreak – Svitolina missed three match points, going wide with her groundstrokes, while Cornet will rue two of her missed chances up at the net. On the first set point, Cornet had pinned Svitolina in the corner, but got a bit tied up coming forward to the net and had to let a ball bounce, allowing Svitolina back into contention.

It was Svitolina who finally found her forehand on a fourth match point to seal the win in two hours and 22 minutes. In the end, a big win for Svitolina as she was in a similar position against Zheng Saisai last week in Madrid where she had a match point and was in a second set tiebreak before losing in three sets.

Svitolina pulled out of doubles later in the day which emphasises what a good win that was!

For the third time in 2017, Ekaterina Makarova defeated Dominika Cibulkova, and in three sets, 1-6 6-1 6-3. This time round, Cibulkova took the first set and in some style, hitting nine winners to just two unforced errors. Makarova improved significantly in the second set; at the same time, Cibulkova’s level and intensity was way off as her backhand broke down.

Cibulkova was a tad better in the decider but struggled to hold serve as a nervous but mostly smart and consistent, Makarova went to the Cibulkova backhand and was able to get on top of the ball and dictate rallies. After a series of breaks, the clincher was a hold of serve for Makarova at *4-3. The Russian player broke for the win, thanks to a sensational forehand passing shot winner (see below) and some loose play from Cibulkova including an errant drive volley on match point.

Cibulkova’s backhand and serve were suspect in the final two sets and generally, she seems to be missing that spark from 2016. Even when she was down in a third set last year, I always had the feeling that Domi could come back and win. Sadly this year she seems to be lacking in belief and in this particular match, a comeback seemed unlikely after Makarova held to 5-3… and that proved to be the case.

Anett Kontaveit secured her place in the third round of Rome with the biggest win of her career, knocking out the number one seed, Angelique Kerber, 6-4 6-0! In fact, Kontaveit won the last ten games of the match having trailed by a break in the first set. I was surprised that Kerber played Rome in the first place after the hamstring injury from Madrid and perhaps that was a factor in this match. Still, a bagel second set was a surprise.

I’m so pleased to see Kontaveit enjoying a breakout year on the tour and in my opinion, it has been long overdue. Kontaveit is going up, up, up in the rankings and will be knocking on the door of the world’s top 60 by virtue of this result.

Snippets from Kerber’s press conference were up on the WTA’s Facebook page.

The only other seed to fall on Wednesday was the number 14 seed, Barbora Strycova… step forward, Timea Bacsinszky who sealed a straight sets win, 6-4 6-2. I’m thrilled for Timea had not won a set in four previous encounters against Strycova.

In the late night match, Garbiñe Muguruza did well to survive a peak Ostapenko first set rampage and win in three sets, 2-6 6-2 6-1. Muguruza’s serve was toasted in the first set as Ostapenko produced some sensational hitting. However, the tables turned in the second set. Ostapenko’s serve was an issue all match – the toss seemed different tonight? Add to that, an increasing error count from Ostapenko and Muguruza shoring up her game and getting into the rallies. The third set was one way traffic for the Spaniard.

Ostapenko is awesome to watch when she’s on – however, she often doesn’t stay at that level and rarely gets it back when she loses her focus and gets increasingly frustrated. As up and down as the year has been for Muguruza, this was a decent win and her eighth three set victory of 2017.

Nice to see Garbi smile at the end!

In other matches…

From a double break down in the first set, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova rallied to maintain her 100% record against Anastasija Sevastova with a 7-6(4) 6-2 triumph. Pavs is rather quietly having a great year with two titles and QF appearances at the Australian Open and Indian Wells. In a wide open French Open draw, she could be a dark horse.

Simona Halep beat Laura Siegemund for the first time in a tight two setter, 6-4 6-4. The match featured 12 breaks of serve. Halep didn’t suffer the same fate as last year when she lost her first match in Rome having just won Madrid.

Kiki Bertens has now won back-to-back matches at three of her last four tournaments and she beat CiCi Bellis on Wednesday, 6-4 6-0.

Daria Gavrilova continued her excellent record in Rome by reaching the last 16 for the third consecutive year with a 7-5 3-6 6-3 victory over Caroline Garcia. For the second straight year she will play Svetlana Kuznetsova in the third round.

Venus Williams battled to a 6-4 6-3 victory over Lesia Tsurenko to set up a third round showdown with Johanna Konta.

Julia Goerges came from a set down to beat Jelena Jankovic, 2-6 7-6(2) 6-1. Sadly, it’s a classic JJ scoreline from 2017 although there were no match points. JJ was two points from the match, leading at 6-5* 30-30* in the second set.

Mona Barthel is a winning machine – with her 12th consecutive win, the German player edged another in-form player in Wang Qiang, 6-3 6-4.

I sensed an upset but I could not have been more wrong 😂😂😂… Karolina Pliskova thrashed Lauren Davis in emphatic fashion, 6-1 6-1 in under an hour.

There’s a fab order of play in Rome on Thursday – bummer i’m probably going to miss out as it’s my tennis night. Hopefully should be back to see Karolina-Timea in the evening! Note that there is unlikely to be a post on Thursday.

A pair of polls for Thursday. I’m hoping to have some free time to write previews for the semi-finals and final this weekend.

The player list for Eastbourne is out and i’m pretty happy! My three favourites, Lucie Safarova, Timea Bacsinszky and Daria Kasatkina are all on it, as is Garbiñe Muguruza, which was a pleasant surprise. You can take a full look at the list at the link below.

For the first ever time, i’ve decided to go to Eastbourne for the whole week and will be there Saturday to Saturday. I’ve only had one day of annual leave so far this year as i’m saving up for the grass court season… I have 12 days off work for Eastbourne and Wimby which is going to be magical! 😍😍😍

😂😂😂

Steve Simon released a statement about Maria Sharapova not getting a wild card for the French Open… absolutely perplexed at this.

And finally, perhaps the likes of Serena Williams and Darren Cahill airing their feelings about trying to watch women’s tennis might have an impact and cause the WTA to WAKE UP? Hmmm… well it can’t do any harm!

By the way, if you are trying to watch women’s tennis from Rome, type in a match on YouTube… i’ve been able to find a high quality stream for the night matches this week which has been great. It has Italian commentary and is a minute or two behind, but based on the year so far for watching WTA it has been a dream.

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18 thoughts on “Wednesday’s Set Points, WTA Rome: Makarova beats Cibulkova again, Kontaveit’s best win

  1. I was also intrigued by Simon’s comments on Sharapova. What were your thoughts? On the one hand, I’m tempted to agree with what he is saying; it’s undeniable that the French Federation is trying to make an example out of Sharapova, while giving a qualifying wildcard to a French player who just returned from an illegal betting suspension. On the other hand, I get the pressure on the Federation to not give special treatment to Sharapova…

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    • I’m wondering if his thinking is that she’s won it twice, so she should be given some kind of privilege
      in future (just as three times Wimbledon finalist Goran Ivanisevic was given a wildcard in 2001, which I’m old enough to remember, which he went on to win).

      My view is that if she is a victim, as some people including Simon seem to think, it’s because of the suspicion shown to athletes in other sports as a result of doping and tennis’s need to show that it’s above any taint of suspicion in this regard (and to be fair her nationality probably counts against her in this context, bearing in mind all the recent scandals involving Russian athletes).

      My view is that she made her mistake, which she’s now admitted to, and it’s appropriate that she start again from the bottom; which she’s shown she is capable of doing by her play in Stuttgart. Darn it, even Petra’s ranking hasn’t been protected (though I believe it should have been) despite the fact she was the victim of a crime.

      BTW, I wouldn’t have given that French player a wild card either and for the same reason; involvement in betting is very toxic to professional sport and players found to be guilty of it shouldn’t expect any favours at the expense of up and coming players who want a chance at the “big time” (which is what wild cards are supposed to be for)

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      • I agree. What most of her fans seem to be forgetting is that Sharapova had her chance to make the cut, she was given THREE CONSECUTIVE WILD CARDS in Premier level events, giving her the opportunity to build up enough ranking points to gain entry to Roland Garros. Why should she be given a fourth?!

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      • It’s the use of the world “penalise” in Steve Simon’s statement I don’t agree with. Personally I would have been content with a qualifying WC as she would have had to earn her place in the draw. It’s such a messy situation and i’m fed up with all the hysteria on social media.

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      • I’m of like mind here, no need to mention any penalty. She did the crime and she’s done her time. That’s the principle. As to whether she gets a wildcard is the judgement call. For that Maria will need to expend any goodwill she’s built up if any. If Simon feels she’s had her chances and compared to the other girl she’s not the lesser of two evils and she’s not even french so be it. It’s French Federation’s prerogative.

        I hope Maria prepares herself for such situations cause I don’t think it will be the last. Such is life.

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  2. I hope illness doesn’t force Svitolina to retire this week… she had real flashes of brilliance in her match against Cornet, and I think a clash with Mona Barthel could be a really interesting one. They’re two of the best scramblers on tour and this could have some super shotmaking.

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  3. Running through the Rome draw, I feel the Roland Garros winner may come from one of these girls making the quarters.

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  4. Words can’t express how upset I am with Goerges and Ostapenko. It’s no secret, I am no fan of Muguruza, but to watch them give that player free points, consistently give her errors is almost like betrayal. It’s not right. And it’s making Muguruza look better than she is.

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    • Coming through these kinds of matches is the mark of a champion though. The longer Muguruza stays in the draw, the greater chance she’ll win the title. Unless she withdraws over some random injury for the hundredth time this year.

      Sucks for Sveta, but not unsurprising considering the amount of hype she was suddenly getting.

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  5. Goerges had both sets won. When you watch Nadal, it looks like he is at work. When you watch Goerges play, it looks like she is at work but hates her job and does not want to be there. I do not want to watch that player again until she fixes her head.

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