Friday’s Set Points, WTA Rome: Svitolina earns first win over Pliskova, Muguruza next

Set PointsExtending her winning streak to nine, Simona Halep reached the semi-finals of Rome with a 6-2 6-4 victory over the qualifier, Anett Kontaveit. I watched the last few games – Halep lost her double break in the second set and faced a break point that would have seen Kontaveit level up at 4-4. However, Halep held on and then successfully served out the match.

Kontaveit had a scary looking fall towards the end of the match when she lost her footing. Thankfully, she was fine and will head to Roland Garros with bundles of confidence, despite the loss. This was another top effort from Halep who has been mentally resilient during these past two weeks.

Halep’s press conference is linked below from the WTA’s Facebook page.

 

Next up for Halep in her pursuit of the Madrid-Rome double is Kiki Bertens who is having a super run – both Halep and Bertens were the only two players to reach at least the quarter-finals of Madrid and Rome. There would be no third set fightback this time for Daria Gavrilova as Bertens sealed a 6-3 6-3 victory to reach her first semi-final since Luxembourg last year.

Sooo… Halep vs. Bertens will be first up at 12pm local time (11am UK time) on Saturday in Rome. Bertens is playing well and Halep spoke of tiredness in her press conference, yet it would seem to me to be the kind of match-up where Halep thrives. The Romanian player won their last encounter at Wimbledon last year, 6-4 6-3, and i’d be surprised if Bertens can upset the apple cart with Halep’s confidence booming right now.

Elina Svitolina scored her first ever win against Karolina Pliskova on the WTA tour, saving three set points in the second set tiebreak – Svitolina won, 6-2 7-6(9). The Ukrainian player had been cruising, leading 6-2 2-0.The Czech player wasn’t moving well and her serve was not there to back her up. Pliskova also wasn’t playing well because of Svitolina, who kept an excellent depth on her groundstrokes, which saw the Czech player mistiming quite a few groundstrokes.

Pliskova fought back in the second set with some more forceful hitting and better footwork as Svitolina threw in a handful of wasteful errors when in control of points. Pliskova looked set to force a decider as she served for the second set at *5-4. Svitolina’s depth helped her get the break back. Into a second set tiebreak and it was an entertaining affair with a yo-yo of set points and match points. One of Svitolina’s set point saves was a sensational forehand return winner. In the end, Pliskova’s lack of first serves cost her as Svitolina was the one who excelled on serve, hitting an unreturnable on match point.

Svitolina was 0-5 in the head-to-head against Pliskova so to get across the finish line in a nervewracking second set tiebreak was an excellent win. It is also a big scoop of points having lost in the first round of Rome last year and decent preparation for Roland Garros, particularly as her results had dropped off a tad since Dubai.

Out of nowhere, Garbiñe Muguruza is into the Rome semi-finals thanks to an excellent win over Venus Williams, her ninth three set win of 2017, 6-2 3-6 6-2. Muguruza played some decent tennis in the first and third sets, capitalising on more errors coming from Venus’s side. The American competed well and won the key points in a closely contested second set. Even after a few iffy points, Muguruza was very focused and looked reasonably calm and in control. It was the Spaniard’s first ever win over Venus.

This was incredible from Venus!

Sooo… the second semi-final will be at not before 5pm between Svitolina and Muguruza. Muguruza leads the head-to-head, 3-2 and won their only previous match in Indian Wells in the baffling scoreline of 7-6(5) 1-6 6-0. I just can’t figure out Muguruza this year and her performances have covered the whole spectrum in 2017. There’s been a lot of matches where she has played well below her best and got the win, something I don’t think she has got much credit for this year.

On this occasion, the win over Venus was one of her most stable performances, both in her groundstrokes and her mental application. In this wide open field and as defending champ, I wouldn’t write her off for Roland Garros; however, i’m sceptical as to whether she can bring a consistent level for seven matches. Against Svitolina, she will be bidding for her first (!) final since Roland Garros which kind of showcases the consistency issue at the same tournament.

Svitolina is a different type of player and will force Muguruza to get a lot of balls back. I always say this about Svitolina but furthermore, she is definitely looked to be more aggressive this year and it seems to be paying off in the key moments. The depth on her groundstrokes was superb against Pliskova who was unable to tee off on a consistent basis.

The head-to-head has been pretty even and they haven’t played on clay since Roland Garros qualifying in 2012, their first encounter on the tour. I think i’d take Svitolina as the safer option because of Muguruza’s unpredictability this year, but it’s another WTA match that I can honestly say I would not be surprised with either player prevailing.

Who you got?

 

Maria Sharapova announced her grass court schedule and thus confirmed that she has not requested a main draw wildcard for Wimbledon. I think it’s a smart move and a welcoming one too as the wildcard debate can at least pipe down for a bit. Sharapova will play qualifying at Roehampton which just happens to have a live stream on one court this year…

There were a lot of comments about Daria Kasatkina’s treatment in my last post… here’s the photo! I’m more focused on the words “coming back soon” and “perfect recovery” which sound positive!

Unsurprisingly, Agnieszka Radwanska is going all in on the grass and with her commitment to play ‘s-Hertogenbosch, is set to play all three weeks in the run-up to Wimbledon.

Players have also been announced for Tokyo after the US Open with no surprises.

Spotted this on Twitter last night and couldn’t stop laughing 🤣🤣🤣

And finally, congrats to Flavia!

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16 thoughts on “Friday’s Set Points, WTA Rome: Svitolina earns first win over Pliskova, Muguruza next

  1. The past 3 winners of Rome were women who won the French Open the year prior…could Muguruza be the fourth?!

    Of course I’m really smug about Svitolina’s success this week. I had her match on my phone in work on mute, but she played some brilliant points. She pretty much matched Pliskova for winners and some of her defense was extraordinary, even if she didn’t always win the point.
    If she could go on to win the title this week I’d be so stroked!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Notes—-Stretching my Italian to the limits, but it appears Pennetta had a baby boy named Federico. Fabio -“Dirty diapers!!!- I just remembered I have to go to the gym.”—-Radwanska playing all the grass tournaments leading to WO. Sounds like burn out city to me.—-Rika Fujiwara remInds me of Thomas Muster who used to do push ups on change of court breaks.

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    • Well Aga is about to fall out of the top ten. She has to defend 4th round points in both Wimbledon and Roland Garros with Venus, Svitolina and Wozniacki all vying for spots in the top ten.
      Unless she gets her season going she could find herself out of the top twenty by the end of the year. She has two titles to defend (New Haven and Beijing) plus half a dozen QF appearances. The chances of her qualifying for Singapore look slimmer and slimmer and so that’s automatically a chunk of points she’ll lose.

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      • Well, Aga has always done well in the Asian swing and I think that will continue, so I don’t see her falling out of the top 20 (or at least not for long), but I agree it’s not looking good for her playing Singapore this year.

        I think she’s finding it hard to compete with the new wave of players coming through now, especially ones like Ana Konjuh who can hit the ball hard.

        Congrats to Flavia as well.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Youngsters on the move. In the $100,000 Trnava, Slovakia ITF tournament 16yo Russian Potapova and 17yo Czech Vondrousova are playing in separate matches in the semifinals.

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  4. In the Svitolina vs Mugurusa match The Mug retired down 1-4 first set. The Mug had a wrap around her right thigh and was not moving well. The Svit hit shots right and left by The Mug who was just standing on the baseline center court.

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  5. What is wrong with Muguruza? She is retiring every second tournament she is playing in 2017…

    Apart from this: I simply cannot understand her change of game. Since months she does not play her natural agressive game which brought her Top 3 and FO title. Athough I know that she usually fights now unlike in 2016 I feel disappointed because she does not use her talent at all.

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    • Wishing Muguruza a speedy recovery, but yeah, something seems up with Muguruza this year. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I hope everything is OK with her behind the scenes. She has battled really well in a lot of matches this year but then at the same time, there have been a lot of mid-match retirements. I feel she’s become a lot more defensive and almost muddled in her gameplan approach. I feel she has lost confidence in closing points at the net. I don’t know if it is a coincidence that she doesn’t play doubles anymore having teamed up with Carla before?

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      • If memory serves, Garbine stopped playing doubles after Singapore in 2015, when she lost a three set match against Aga which she blamed (probably rightly) on being overtired.

        I used to like watching Carla and Garbine playing doubles; they had such contrasting styles. Carla would be scurrying all over the court and going into the net to make the points, whereas Garbine would be standing way back and belting it from the baseline.

        I know opinions are divided as to whether or not playing doubles helps or harms a player’s singles career but at least Garbine won Roland Garros last year, so it worked for her then. (On the other side of the argument, Lucie made the finals of the French Open in both singles and doubles in 2015.)

        On the other matter, I think she needs a change of coach; tbh it pains me at times to watch her and Sam Sumyk together, they don’t seem to get on at all. I think she needs someone she can have fun with on court, like Rob Steckley did for Lucie when they worked together.

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      • I agree, Graham. I find Muguruza’s partnership with Sumyk awkward to watch. Despite helping out when she won RG last year, i’m surprised it has lasted so long.

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    • The change in game style between 2015 and 2016 was the one I never really understood. Sam Sumyk had her flatten her forehand out completely and she became an error machine, whereas she used to have a nice shape to it. I know it won her a Slam but that was the only really good result Muguruza had last year.
      I actually think her level of play this year has been MUCH higher than last year. But physically something is just not right. This is the FOURTH time that she’s retired during a match this year!

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      • I’d agree that Muguruza’s level has generally been higher this year. Tough luck with injuries but all the retirements are a little concerning.

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