The surprises keep on coming at the 2021 Volvo Car Open. The number one seed, Ash Barty, was defeated in the quarter-finals which means that the number 12 seed, Ons Jabeur, is the highest ranked player left in the draw and we are guaranteed a new WTA champion at the end of the tournament! Read on for Friday’s diary from Charleston…
Day 5️⃣ Highlights
Danka Kovinic d. (11) Yulia Putintseva, 6-7(2) 7-5 6-1
The first of the quarter-finals was the joint longest match of the tournament so far at two hours and 52 minutes, matching Cornet-Pera from the first round. Kovinic backed up wins over Leylah Fernandez and Petra Kvitova with a hard fought three set victory over Yulia Putintseva to reach a first WTA 500 semi-final.
From a break down in the first set, Putintseva began to draw errors from Kovinic by varying the height of her groundstrokes. Putintseva was knocking on the door for a break in the second set and it felt like she was close to taking complete control as Kovinic was beginning to make more and more tactical errors. Putintseva was unable to capitalise and Kovinic competed superbly to stay in contention as Putintseva had one of her mental implosions. Kovoinic said in her post-match interview that she was most pleased with her composure.
Kovinic won the second set and the rest was history. Putintseva went away as Kovinic began to attack in the forecourt with increasing confidence, dominating most of the rallies. Random note – there was a stoppage in the third set when Putintseva tripped up under one of the service lines which had lifted up. Very dangerous! Putintseva was fortunate not to pick up a serious injury.
(12) Ons Jabeur d. (14) Coco Gauff, 6-3 6-3
While Jabeur had a super consistent year in 2020, one of the defining statistics of her season was that she went 0-5 in quarter-finals. This was a bigggg win for Jabeur, not only beating Gauff for the first time, but managing to break the streak of lost quarter-finals to reach a first WTA semi-final since Tianjin 2019.
It was a shocker of a day for Gauff who injured her hip in a nasty fall early in the first set. Gauff had a medical time-out and looked in distress but soldiered on. Even before the injury, Gauff was all over the shop on serve and ended the match with more than three games worth of double faults. Tough one for Gauff. If you take away the expectation and spotlight on Gauff, she’s having a good year so far. Jabeur played a steady, focused match to advance to the last four in Charleston.
Paula Badosa d. (1) Ash Barty, 6-4 6-3
Two days ago, Paula Badosa hadn’t beaten a top 30 player. Now she’s bagged herself a win over the world number one! Badosa played the big players like a champ, saving 12 of 14 break points. I’m trying to decide whether those missed break point chances were because Badosa saved them or Barty blew them. I’d side more with the former because Badosa managed to land so many decisive first serves in play down break point.
This was a strange match from Barty. I couldn’t quite figure it out. At times she was very passive, wayyy behind the baseline. At other times she was ultra-aggressive, charging the net, not with a great deal of success. Barty made a lot of uncharacteristic errors off both wings. Surprised at the result although I had Barty out to Rogers in my Draw Chal so I didn’t fancy Ash winning the title this week. A deserved win for Badosa who has achieved career firsts in her last three matches in Charleston!
(15) Veronika Kudermetova d. Sloane Stephens, 6-3 6-4
So yeah, I got over excited and drawn in by Stephens’s performance against Tomljanovic on Thursday 😂. Kudermetova was the more aggressive player and kept her unforced error count in check to beat a mostly tentative and poor-serving, Stephens.
Kudermetova had the upper hand from the very first game. The Russian player pulled away from 3-2 in the first set in what proved to be the pivotal game. Stephens didn’t have the same buzz and energy about her compared to her match against Tomljanovic. She didn’t throw in the towel in the second set though and forced Kudermetova to earn the win. All in all, Stephens’s best week of the year and a stepping stone in the right direction. Kudermetova is into her second semi-final of 2021. Kudermetova’s losses this year have come against Sabalenka (x2), Halep, Rogers, Muguruza, Bencic and Kasatkina. That’s quite a list…
Best point 🎾
Point of the day and what proved to be a defining moment in the Kudermetova-Stephens match.
Recommended listening 🎧
ICYMI: I was on this week’s Tennis with an Accent podcast with Saqib Ali talking about Miami and looking ahead to the clay court season.
SF watchlist 📺
(12) Ons Jabeur vs. Danka Kovinic
(15) Veronika Kudermetova vs. Paula Badosa