My tennis night was cancelled despite the forecast being completely clear at the start of the day. It has since proceeded to rain non-stop since 2pm! Sooo here I am with a bumper Thursday recap and Friday preview Set Points extravaganza.
Anett Kontaveit is on a roll… in her 29th win of the year and with just 54 minutes on the clock, the Estonian player delivered a comprehensive beatdown to dispatch Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, 6-1 6-1 and book her place in the Rome quarter-finals.
Get to know more about Kontaveit in the latest WTA Insider podcast. Enjoyed this and would love more features like this from the WTA.
Dasha loves Rome… with a first ever victory over Svetlana Kuznetsova, Daria Gavrilova came from a set down to win, 2-6 7-5 6-4. The Aussie made a bit of a meal of trying to serve out the match but was the better player in the third set – I was surprised how Gavrilova was the aggressor, and she was mostly smart, playing patiently in rallies and and waiting for the killer punch. I thought Kuznetsova was mostly passive in the third set and was having an off day. The match point said it all… a moonball rally with Gavrilova getting the upper hand and eventually ripping a forehand winner.
Gavrilova lost out to Kuznetsova in three sets on Pietrangeli in the same round of Rome last year…. this year she’s back into the quarters. The last time that Gavrilova qualified for the main draw, she went all the way to the semi-finals.
Shot of the day from Dasha?
Or how about this drop shot which Dasha wanted to see a replay of!
Two of the most intriguing matches of the day, Venus Williams vs. Johanna Konta and Simona Halep vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, both started at the same time and finished with remarkably similar scorelines. Williams earnt her first win over Konta since their first meeting in Wuhan, winning 6-1 3-6 6-1.
Halep maintained her 100% record against Pavlyuchenkova with a breadstick-bagel sandwich, 6-1 4-6 6-0. This was Halep’s 12th win in her last 13 matches and she seems to be breaking free as the outright favourite for the French Open.
For the second time in just over a week, Kiki Bertens beat Ekaterina Makarova in straight sets. Bertens and Halep are the only two players to have reached the quarter-finals of both Rome and Madrid.
After a dreadful first round performance in Madrid, Garbiñe Muguruza has responded positively in Rome with two wins over decent opponents. On Thursday, Muguruza won the last five games to beat Julia Goerges in a tight two setter, 7-5 6-4.
Winning the last 12 games, Elina Svitolina snapped Mona Barthel’s 12-match winning streak with a 3-6 6-0 6-0 (!) victory. The first set was very enjoyable and Barthel played a superb set of tennis. The German player served well and got a lot of balls back in play. I was so impressed with how she was finding the balance in rallying and choosing the right shot to go for the winner.
One of Svitolina’s strengths is that she just never goes away. The Ukrainian player upped the aggression at the start of the second set as Barthel lost her intensity and began to commit more errors. The German player dropped the second set on a game of double faults! Barthel ran out of stream in the decider at the same time as Svitolina ran into form, who waltzed into the quarter-finals after dropping just nine points in the decider.
A shame for Mona to lose her winning streak in this way. I tweeted how wonderful it was to see Mona playing so well after she won the first set… she then didn’t win another game 😂😂😂. I still stand by that tweet though. Taking a step back from this match and with some perspective, Mona was bed ridden with an unknown virus just over a year ago. Mona’s back and playing very well, and i’m hoping she gets a decent draw at Roland Garros as I could see her reaching the second week.
Elina moves on in style and into her first ever quarter-final in Rome.
In the final match of the day, Karolina Pliskova produced one of her best displays on clay to beat Timea Bacsinszky, 6-1 7-5. After a quick opener, the pair played out a quality second set. Bacsinszky played some good ball but Pliskova, buoyed by her first serve and hitting big, just had enough at the end despite some of Bacsinszky’s best battling.
Both were smiling at the end – I think Timea will be content with her level heading into RG as this week was a big improvement on Madrid. This performance will no doubt give Pliskova bundles of confidence going forward on the clay.
The last eight looks very enticing on paper. Let’s take a look at Friday’s quartet of matches…
Simona Halep vs. Anett Kontaveit (1st match on Centrale, 12pm local time)
So much has happened since Halep and Kontaveit last played in Miami where Halep won in straights – the pair have combined for a whopping 28 wins in less than two months! Both are playing at a much higher level right now and there will probably be some fatigue on both sides with Halep coming from Madrid and Kontaveit advancing through Rome qualifying.
Kontaveit has some stunning raw power and in the WTA Insider podcast she kept reiterating about playing with confidence, which is obviously there right now. Halep will try to drain that confidence… with the way that she has been competing, it’s hard to look past her right now.
Kiki Bertens vs. Daria Gavrilova (2nd up on Next Gen Arena, NB 14:30pm local time)
Bertens is rounding into form at just the right time as she will defend semi-final points at Roland Garros in two weeks time. A month ago I thought she was set for a big rankings drop but actually, with the right draw, she could go deep and defend a lot of those points. Rome has been one of Gavrilova’s most successful tournaments and she has beaten Madison Keys, Caroline Garcia and Svetlana Kuznetsova all in three sets. I think this one will be Bertens in two or Gavrilova in three. I’ve changed my mind on this one a few times but right now, going with the latter.
Garbiñe Muguruza vs. Venus Williams (4th match on Centrale, NB 19:30pm local time)
I never saw this quarter-final coming! Williams hadn’t played in well over a month since Charleston, while Muguruza had a mare in Madrid and was quickly down a set in her first match this week against Ostapenko. I’d have more faith in Williams in this one as Muguruza, while producing encouraging results so far this week, is still very unpredictable in my mind. Furthermore, Venus leads the head-to-head, 3-0. Muguruza was forced to retire during their last match in the 2015 Wuhan final.
Karolina Pliskova vs. Elina Svitolina (3rd up on Next Gen Arena, NB 16:30pm local time)
In all five encounters on the WTA tour, Pliskova has come out on top against Svitolina. Two of those wins were on clay where you’d think Svitolina would be more comfortable although personally, i’m not totally sold on Svitolina on clay. Svitolina played a good match against a fading Barthel but i’m wondering whether she will have the energy to tackle Pliskova who will come into this match on a bit of a high. I feel like this should be Svitolina’s match but the H2H is concerning me. On the fence…
And finally, it has been officially confirmed that Maria Sharapova has accepted a wild card for Birmingham as part of a two year deal. The Aegon Classic has a stunning line-up this year.