Osaka Powers Past Garcia Into Australian Open Third Round

Japan’s Naomi Osaka celebrates after winning against France’s Caroline Garcia during their women’s singles match on day three of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on February 10, 2021. (Photo by Paul CROCK / AFP)

 

Japanese sensation Naomi Osaka thwarted Caroline Garcia on Wednesday with an effortless straight sets victory, as she stormed into the Australian Open third round.

Osaka, the third seed, faced a tricky contest against the Frenchwoman, who was ranked a career-high of fourth in late 2018, but never gave her a sniff in the 6-2, 6-3 victory in 61 minutes.

“I stayed focused throughout the match and I tried to play within myself,” Osaka, who hit 23 winners, told the crowd at Rod Laver Arena.

“She’s a tough opponent because you don’t know how she might play.”

The three-time Grand Slam winner is riding a 16-match unbeaten streak — including the US Open final — dating back 12 months, and is building momentum having not played before arriving in Australia since her triumph in New York.

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The 2019 Australian Open champion cruised through the opening set to draw first blood and snuffed out any challenge from 43-ranked Garcia with a break in the sixth game of the second before finishing it off in style with her 10th ace.

Osaka is eyeing redemption after her title defence last year ended with a shock loss to American teenager Coco Gauff in the third round.

She faces 27th seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia in the third round.

Sharapova Stunned By Garcia In Stuttgart First Round

Sharapova Stunned By Garcia In Stuttgart First Round
Russia’s Maria Sharapova returns the ball to France’s Caroline Garcia during their tennis match at the WTA Tennis Grand Prix on April 24, 2018, in Stuttgart, southwestern Germany.
THOMAS KIENZLE / AFP

 

Maria Sharapova crashed out in the opening round of the Stuttgart Grand Prix on Tuesday as French sixth seed Caroline Garcia staged a fightback to win 3-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-4.

“This was not the result that I wanted, but I can take a lot out of this match,” Sharapova said. “I’ve not competed for a few weeks, but I played pretty solid and did all of the right things.

“I served well in the first set but had a few doubles at the wrong time. Physically, I felt quite strong.”

The five-time Grand Slam champion, who turned 31 last week, looked to be in control as she made just two unforced errors in winning the opening set.

But Garcia, who had never beaten the Russian in four previous meetings — they last played in Madrid three years ago — rallied in the second set as she came from 4-2 down and levelled the contest in a tie-break.

Sharapova Stunned By Garcia In Stuttgart First Round
Sharapova congratulates Garcia after she won the tennis match.
THOMAS KIENZLE / AFP

 

The 41st-ranked Sharapova returned to tennis in Stuttgart exactly a year ago after finishing a 15-month doping ban for meldonium and reached the semi-finals.

She claimed an early break in the third set, but lost it in the third game as Garcia tightened the screw on the crowd favourite.

Sharapova was broken to trail 4-5 and put her opponent under momentary pressure at 0-30 as Garcia tried to serve out the win.

But the world number seven succeeded on her second match point as Sharapova struck a return wide to exit after two and three-quarter hours of battle on the indoor clay court.

Sharapova said her game might have been compromised by weeks of forearm injury recovery after last playing in Indian Wells six weeks ago.

“Overall I didn’t react as well as I could against a server like her, she got lots of free points,” Sharapova said.

“I didn’t get enough balls back. We were both playing fast, and aggressive.

“I need to be smarter in the winning position.”

Sharapova Stunned By Garcia In Stuttgart First Round
France’s Caroline Garcia reacts after winning the match.
THOMAS KIENZLE / AFP

 

Garcia will next take on Ukrainian qualifier Marta Kostyuk who scored a 6-4, 6-1 defeat of Antonia Lottner.

The youngster, who doesn’t turn 16 until just before the start of Wimbledon, was joined in round two by Czech fifth seed Karolina Pliskova, who beat Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens 6-2, 6-2.

Kostyuk made a breakthrough with a surprise third-round showing at the Australian Open as a qualifier, finally losing to compatriot Elina Svitolina.

World number 158 Kostyuk has since claimed a second-tier title in Burnie, Australia and reached a final in Zhuhai, China in March.

Her defeat of Lottner, ranked 155th, took just under 90 minutes, with the teenager breaking four times while losing serve only once.

Pliskova, who has been on site for a week training, is playing Stuttgart for the third consecutive year, after losing to eventual champion Laura Siegemund in the 2017 quarter-finals.

“I felt the best today and for sure it was not her best match but that was not much to do with me,” Pliskova said.

“The serve was good and I got a lot of free points, my shots were working — there was no problem from my side today.”

The Czech dominated Bertens, with the winner firing six aces and breaking four times.

Reigning champion Laura Siegemund beat Barbora Strycova 6-4, 6-3, but Marketa Vondrousova did get one over the Germans for the Czechs with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Julia Goerges.

AFP

Australian Open: Serena Williams Through To Fourth Round

Serena Williams, Australian OpenSerena Williams has beaten fellow American Nicole Gibbs to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open in Melbourne.

The world number two won 6-1 6-3 in 63 minutes on Saturday.

She is chasing a 23rd Grand Slam singles title.

The 35-year-old six-time champion will play Czech’s Barbora Strycova, who also beat France’s Caroline Garcia 6-2 7-5.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Ekaterina Makarova came through a dramatic match to beat Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova 6-2 6-7 (3-7) 6-3.

She goes on to face Britain’s Johanna Konta, who trashed Caroline Wozniaki 6-3 6-1.

Croatia’s Mirjana Lucic-Baroni also advanced to the last 16 for the first time with a 3-6 6-2 6-3 win over Greece’s Maria Sakkari.