The semi-finals are set in Montreal with a very intriguing line-up. I was playing tennis on Thursday night and generally hitting the wall for the week so thankful for the weekend to recharge before what is set to be a busy week in Cincy. Read on for 10 stories with accounts of Friday’s quarter-finals, highlights from Thursday and polls for Saturday’s semi-finals. The Cincy draw is already out!
Barty’s first SF on hard court since Sydney
Ashleigh Barty was the first player into the semi-finals of Montreal, winning 9 of the last 10 games to beat Kiki Bertens, 6-3 6-1. I was surprised by the scoreline as Bertens had powered past Karolina Pliskova and Petra Kvitova in the last two rounds. Barty presented something different in this match-up and it was her slice that secured the lone break of the first set. Barty’s slice was much more consistent and meaningful than earlier in the week, drawing the crucial errors from Bertens. From there on, it was one way traffic as a frustrated Bertens became increasingly erratic as Barty mixed up the play effectively with some lovely angles. Barty sealed the win in just 55 minutes!
2017 was Barty’s breakthrough year on the tour. Following it up is always a challenge and generally, Barty has acquitted herself well. The Aussie has only two top 20 wins to her name in 2018 but has been very steady all year, winning at least one match at 12 of her 15 tournaments. The year is currently missing that big landmark win. To be honest, I didn’t see this run coming after Barty’s first rounder against Begu which was one of the worst matches that i’ve watched this year! 😂
Keep going, Ash! 💪
Stephens defends SF points in Canada
Sloane Stephens has a shedload of points to defend over the next four weeks. The American has made a really promising start to that defence by reaching the semi-finals of Montreal for the loss of just 13 games in three matches. On Friday, Stephens beat Anastasija Sevastova, 6-2 6-2. It was a slightly odd one because the match felt closer than the scoreline, yet Stephens missed chances to make the scoreline even more one-sided!
There were a few shockers from Stephens including a terrible overhead that would have seen her claim the double break a bit earlier in the second set. It didn’t linger though and her intensity and footwork were excellent for the most part. The US Open is going to be tough to handle with all the pressure and expectation. At least for now, Sloane is playing at a very decent level and with a Miami/French Open vibe of being extremely difficult to break down.
Halep in superb form
Simona Halep won nine of the last ten games to beat Caroline Garcia, 7-5 6-1 in the first of the night session matches. Garcia was the better player for much of the first set, but missed a few openings on the Halep serve. The world number one proved why she is the world number one. With improving depth and intensity, Halep stayed with Garcia and then made her move at 5-5. Halep served out the set with a magnificent service game (see first point below). Halep’s first serve improved in the second set as she came through with a mightily impressive display. She said in her post-match interview that she had very tired legs. Tough turnaround on Saturday playing the day session!
Svitolina enjoying Premier 5 success again
Elina Svitolina rallied from 0-4 down in the first set to beat Elise Mertens in straight sets, 7-5 6-3. The first four games were the definition of peak Mertens – the Belgian player made a sensational start to the match, playing aggressively and opening up the court. Svitolina was struggling with her depth for much of the set. Mertens couldn’t stay at the high level and Svitolina, resilient as always, worked her way back into the match. Svitolina was proactive and aggressive at the ends of both sets, not afraid to come forward when setting up with a potent first serve.
Svitolina has already managed to defend her Dubai and Rome titles, and is only two match wins away from the doing the same in Canada. It’s nice to see Svitolina reset after disappointing campaigns at both the French Open and Wimbledon.
This was a magnificent shot from Kiki Bertens during her third round match against Petra Kvitova on Thursday.
Thursday’s rally of the day
Take a bow, Ash Barty and Alizé Cornet.
Sabalenka’s rollercoaster Thursday and general scheduling woes
I’m a bit gutted for Aryna Sabalenka after she had an eventful Thursday. The Belarusian saved three match points to record the best win of her career with a 5-7 6-2 7-6(4) victory over Caroline Wozniacki. This was a match carried over from Wednesday and didn’t take to the court till nearly 4pm local time. I understand that the players were on site late the night before so couldn’t be first on (as pointed out to me by Tracy Austin on Twitter – wow moment 😲). Still, it seemed unfair to both players considering the winner would have to play again on Thursday. I can’t get my head around a situation where three players were into the quarter-finals, had probably warmed down and done press, perhaps even heading off site, while Wozniacki and Sabalenka hadn’t even taken to the court to play their SECOND round match.
Sabalenka returned later in the day to play Elise Mertens and actually had a match point. Sabalenka couldn’t convert and Mertens eventually won, 2-6 7-6(1) 6-0. A real shame for Sabalenka that the day was overshadowed by her loss because of having to play two matches in one day. There’s not really a way around it when they get rain because there is so little contingency in the schedule. I’d like to see these tournaments played over say 10 days, but that’s just not feasible with the status of the calendar.
Buzarnescu out of US Open
Sad but expected news as Mihaela Buzarnescu will miss the US Open. I guess it could have been worse so hopefully we will see Buzarnescu back in action in 2018. Whatever happens, it’s still be an incredible year for the Buz.
The main draw is out and unsurprisingly it’s pretty mega. It’s too early to be getting excited about S.Williams vs. Kvitova in the second round. But oooo that could be fun! The Pliskova-Garcia section is 🔥.
Simona Halep and Ash Barty get the afternoon session with Elina Svitolina and Sloane Stephens up at night. A neat semi-final line-up! Who you got?
4 thoughts on “Friday’s Set Points, WTA Montreal: Halep vs. Barty & Stephens vs. Svitolina in the semi-finals”
Would love to see Svitolina defend her title. She definitely needed a good run to salvage her mid season slump! She was playing so aggressively at the start of the year and I feel like that loss at the French really knocked her confidence big time. If she can get some momentum, she could at least go into Flushing Meadows feeling good again.
No disrespect to Elina but I think Sloane’s going to take some beating the way she’s playing at the moment. I sometimes wonder if Sloane is the player Aga wishes she was; she’s got much of Aga’s craft and guile, but has more stamina than Aga, so she doesn’t flop after a previous hard match, and a bit more power.
I do agree, my only detour being, Aga is more cerebral in her game. I feel it exposes her to more mental burnouts. Sloane is fairly physical, and instead of stamina(about the same), I feel it is more of her core strength. Even if her mind escapes her, Stephens can coast through a game given her physicality. Aga is easier to pick off.
Aga should have built up the physical aspects of her game a bit more.You even see it with Simona. When the running and retrieving isn’t working you can put in a little strength. Likewise, Angelique Kerber.
The other factor being that Sloane is a more ‘choosy’ player. She can come into a tournament and lose in the first round. Another tournament later she is playing clutch tennis all the way through. The state of the tour now is actually setup for a player like ‘peak Aga’. A bit of a shame, she is rather gone MIA amongs the top players.
I agree. There was a shot Simona played against Ash yesterday where she accelerated right up to the net and hit a near vertical volley to get the ball just the other side of the net, and the commentator said, “Who else but Simona could have hit that shot?” My answer would be; Aga in her pomp, and maybe Sloane as she is playing now (perhaps Angie Kerber or Caroline Wozniacki too).
I’d still love to see Aga win that elusive slam and I’m sure she still wants it, but the chances seem to be receding now with (as she says herself) so many other very good players coming along.
As for today’s match, I think it’s too close to call; both players have been playing great tennis all tournament though maybe Sloane just has the edge.