Australian Open: Kenin dethroned in Melbourne as the Barty party continues

By Sports Desk February 11, 2021

Sofia Kenin's title defence came to a shock end in the second round of the Australian Open, where world number one Ash Barty advanced amid injury concerns.

Kenin was looking to become the first woman to defend her crown at Melbourne Park since Victoria Azarenka in 2013, instead, she was a high-profile casualty in warm conditions on Thursday.

Barty, who lost to Kenin in last year's semi-finals in Melbourne, stayed alive with a straight-sets win over fellow Australian Daria Gavrilova.

Former world number one Karolina Pliskova also progressed beyond the second round as fifth seed Elina Svitolina blitzed American sensation Coco Gauff.

 

KENIN OUSTED IN BOILOVER

The American star arrived at the year's first grand slam with high expectations and looking to become the first woman to go back-to-back at a major since Serena Williams in 2016.

But fourth seed Kenin fell to experienced Estonian Kaia Kanepi 6-3 6-2, having tallied 10 winners and 22 unforced errors in windy conditions in Melbourne - the scene of her breakthrough slam more than 12 months ago.

It was Kenin's first defeat to a player ranked outside the top 50 since going down to then-number 54 Iga Swiatek in the 2020 French Open final.

Asked why she was nervous pre-match, Kenin told reporters: "It's like the outside pressure. I felt really nervous. I haven't felt my game for, I don't know how long, but I haven't really felt my game so well, even in my first round. 

"I played well, but still haven't felt 100 per cent game-wise. It's obviously tough."

 

STRAPPED THIGH? NO WORRIES FOR BARTY​

Barty's left thigh was heavily strapped amid concerns but the 2019 French Open champion still booked her spot in the third round with a 6-1 7-6 (9-7) win over countrywoman Gavrilova.

The first Australian woman to reach the semi-finals in Melbourne since 1984, following last year's run, Barty gave up a 5-2 lead in the second set before saving two set points in the tie-break.

Reflecting on Kenin's surprise exit, Barty talked up the standard of the WTA Tour.

"There are no easy matches," said Barty, who next meets 29th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova for a spot in the round of 16. "There are no easy matches in any tour event, any slam, anything. I think every time you walk on the court, you have to try and be able to bring your best tennis to be able to compete with everyone. 

"That's just the level that there is now on the women's side. That's something really exciting about women's tennis now, is that every single match, it's a fair match. You go out there, you play hard, you try to do the best that you can."

 

PLISKOVA AVENGES LOSS, SVITOLINA TOO GOOD FOR GAUFF

Beaten by Danielle Collins in the third round of the Yarra Valley Classic just eight days ago, sixth seed Pliskova got the better of the 2019 Australian Open semi-finalist this time around.

Pliskova - also a semi-finalist at Melbourne Park two years ago - defeated Collins 7-5 6-2 and next plays 25th seed Karolina Muchova.

"I just played better in some moments, which I didn't last week. Then she was not playing that well as she did last week," Czech star Pliskova said. "I knew if I at least maintain little bit, just play at least similar as I was playing last week, I knew it's going to be difficult for her to repeat what she played last week. I think she really played great."

Owning a 6-1 record in the second round at Melbourne Park - falling only at this stage in 2016 - Svitolina produced a mature performance to conquer 16-year-old star Gauff 6-4 6-3 on centre court as 26th seed Yulia Putintseva awaits. 

Elsewhere, seeds Belinda Bencic, Elise Mertens, Anett Kontaveit, Jennifer Brady and Donna Vekic moved through.

Related items

  • Andy Murray suggests he is in ‘last few months’ of career after Dubai win Andy Murray suggests he is in ‘last few months’ of career after Dubai win

    Andy Murray hinted he was heading into the “last few months” of his tennis career after battling from a set down to beat Denis Shapovalov in Dubai to secure his second win of 2024.

    The three-time grand slam champion has been forced to fend off retirement talk following a string of first-round defeats and looked set for another early exit when Shapovalov, a former top 10 player, took the opening set.

    Murray had struggled to breach the serve of his 24-year-old Canadian opponent, but produced a trademark gutsy display to edge a second-set tie-breaker before keeping his composure to break twice in the decider and secure a 4-6 7-6 (5) 6-3 win after two hours and 33 minutes.

    Victory saw Murray become only the fifth man in the Open Era to claim 500 tour-level wins on a hard court and he will face either fifth seed Ugo Humbert or wild card Gael Monfils in the second round.

    However, rather than his match-up against one of the two Frenchman, it was the 36-year-old Scot’s longer-term future which was again a hot topic following his win, with Murray admitting he probably does not have “too long left” in the sport.

    “People read a lot into what I say on the court sometimes and it’s not always rational,” Murray said.

    “I obviously still love competing and still love the game, but it gets harder and harder the older you get to compete with the young guys and keep your body fit and fresh.

    “Not easy, I probably don’t have too long left, but I’ll do as best as I can these last few months.”

    Murray won his most recent meeting against Shapovalov, but that was in 2022 and he entered this match in torrid form with only one win this year.

    Shapovalov signalled his intent with three aces in his opening service game before the duo traded a number of early holds.

    The first break point opportunity did not occur until the ninth game and, while Murray saved it at 15-40 down, Shapovalov outlasted the Scot in a lengthy rally on the next point to move 5-4 up.

    Murray let his frustration show after his wayward backhand gifted Shapovalov the initiative and chucked his racket at the court before the Canadian closed out the opener with two more aces.

    Former world number one Murray produced a strong response at the start of the second set and remarkably produced three successful challenges on his serve.

    Murray followed that up with a first break point opportunity and, while it came and went, the 36-year-old did break Shapovalov at the next time of asking to move 3-1 up.

    Shapovalov had sent down two double-faults to aid Murray’s cause, but hit back immediately with a break of his own before he consolidated it after a 10-minute service game which included a 137mph ace.

    Murray had to display his battling skills to keep the second set on serve at 4-4 and a tie-breaker was ultimately required, which the Scot edged to win a marathon 75-minute set.

    Shapovalov’s serve had let him down towards the end of the second set and his struggles continued with two double-faults to begin the third.

    It handed Murray the ascendancy and he took full advantage to claim a confidence-boosting 500th hard-court win of his career.

    Murray said: “It’s not bad. Obviously hard court has been a great surface for me over the years and 500 is a lot of matches so I’m very proud of that.

    “There are not many players that have done that, so great to get to 500 before I’m done.”

    An emotional-sounding Murray finished his on-court interview by trying to point out his father in the crowd, saying: “My dad’s come to support me this week which means a lot.”

  • Andy Murray edges past Denis Shapovalov in Dubai for second win of 2024 Andy Murray edges past Denis Shapovalov in Dubai for second win of 2024

    Andy Murray dug deep to secure a second win of 2024 with a 4-6 7-6 (5) 6-3 victory over Denis Shapovalov in the first round of the Dubai Open.

    The three-time grand-slam champion has been forced to fend off retirement talk following a string of first-round defeats and looked set for another when Shapovalov, a former top-10 player, claimed the opening set.

    Murray had struggled to breach the serve of his 24-year-old opponent, but produced a trademark gutsy display to edge a second-set tie-breaker and kept his composure to break twice in the decider to secure a much-needed win after two hours and 33 minutes.

    The most recent meeting between the duo went to Murray, but that was in 2022 and he entered this match in torrid form with only one win this year.

    Shapovalov signalled his intent with three aces in his opening service game before the duo traded a number of early holds.

    The first break point opportunity did not occur until the ninth game and, while Murray saved it at 15-40 down, Shapovalov outlasted the Scot in a lengthy rally on the next point to move 5-4 up.

    Murray let his frustration show after his wayward backhand gifted Shapovalov the initiative and chucked his racket at the court before the Canadian closed out the opener with two more aces.

    Former world number one Murray produced a strong response at the start of the second set and remarkably produced three successful challenges on his serve.

     

    View this post on Instagram

    A post shared by Tennis TV (@tennistv)


    Buoyed by his eagle-eyes, Murray followed this up with a first break point opportunity and, while it came and went, the 36-year-old did break Shapovalov at the next time of asking to move 3-1 up.

     

    Shapovalov had sent down two double-faults to aid Murray’s cause, but hit back immediately with a break of his own before he consolidated it after a 10-minute service game which included a 137mph ace.

    Murray had to display his trademark battling skills to keep the second set on serve at 4-4 and a tie-breaker was ultimately required.

    Several mini-breaks followed, but it was Murray who made sure the match went the distance after he edged a marathon 75-minute set with an excellent trade-off with Shapovalov after he came into the net.

    Shapovalov’s serve had let him down towards the end of the second set and his struggles continued with two double-faults to begin the third.

    It handed Murray the ascendancy and he was able to consolidate with a succession of quick holds to move within sight of a precious victory.

    Murray had to work hard to hold in the eighth game of the decider and it broke Shapovalov’s resistance with the Canadian broken again to hand the Briton a confidence-boosting 500th hard-court win of his career.

  • On this day in 2020: Maria Sharapova announces retirement in Vanity Fair article On this day in 2020: Maria Sharapova announces retirement in Vanity Fair article

    Maria Sharapova used an article in Vanity Fair to announce she was “saying goodbye” to tennis, on this day in 2020.

    Sharapova had struggled with chronic shoulder problems for some time and the five-time grand slam champion and former world number one had dropped to 373rd in the rankings.

    The then-32-year-old said it would be a wrench to walk away, writing: “How do you leave behind the only life you’ve ever known?

    “How do you walk away from the courts you’ve trained on since you were a little girl, the game that you love – one which brought you untold tears and unspeakable joys – a sport where you found a family, along with fans who rallied behind you for more than 28 years?

    “I’m new to this, so please forgive me. Tennis – I’m saying goodbye.”

    Having announced her talent by winning Wimbledon at the age of just 17 in 2004, Sharapova went on to establish herself as one of the greats of her era – among her contemporaries, only Serena and Venus Williams won more slam singles titles.

    Sharapova added the US Open title in 2006 and the Australian Open in 2008 before twice lifting the trophy at Roland Garros, in 2012 and 2014. She is one of only 10 women to achieve the career Grand Slam.

    Her impact on court was trumped by her profile off it, with the Russian the world’s highest-earning female athlete for much of her career.

    In 2016 came the bombshell announcement that she had failed a doping test for the cardiac drug meldonium, which had been added to the banned list at the start of that year.

    Sharapova was banned for two years, reduced to 15 months on appeal.

    She returned to action in April 2017 but was unable to reach her previous heights, peaking at a high of 21 in the rankings and reaching just one more grand slam quarter-final.

    In July 2022, Sharapova became a mother with the birth of her son Theodore and has taken up pickleball in her post-retirement life.

    Earlier this month, she partnered up with John McEnroe to take on Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf – in Pickleball Slam 2 – losing out on the one million USD (£789,000) prize.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.