Sabine Lisicki justified her top seeding by winning the inaugural WTA Hong Kong Open 7-5, 6-3 against Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic yesterday.
The German had endured a lean time on tour since losing the Wimbledon final to Marion Bartoli last year, tumbling out of the world’s top 30. Lisicki only accepted a wild card into the Hong Kong tournament at the last minute after US Open semi-finalist Peng Shuai and world No. 7 Eugenie Bouchard pulled out. It proved to be a move that paid off handsomely.
“I’m very happy,” she said. “Especially because it was such a spontaneous decision. We literally decided [to play] three or four days before the tournament started.”
The scoreline says it was a straight-sets victory, but it was far from straightforward in an error-strewn match at Victoria Park.
The Czech third seed had seemed destined to avenge her second-round defeat to the German at Wimbledon this year when she raced into a 5-1 lead in the first set, breaking Lisicki’s serve twice.
However, Lisicki, who at that point was managing to put only a woeful 40 percent of her first serves into play, slowly got into her stride to spark a remarkable run in which she broke back twice to level at 5-5.
Asked if she had thought about letting the set slip away at 1-5, Lisicki gave a robust response.
“No. Never. I always fight for every single point no matter what the score is,” Lisicki said.
Pliskova again had chances to break as Lisicki faltered to 15-40 in the 11th game, but the Czech world No. 36 could not take advantage and a loose return way out into the tramlines on her second break point caused her to slam her racket down in disgust.
Lisicki served out for her fifth game in a row and squandered one set point on Pliskova’s serve in the next game, but a searing backhand crosscourt pass in the best rally of the match sealed the set 7-5. It capped an incredible run of six consecutive games for the world No. 31.
Lisicki made it seven on the trot by holding serve to open the second set, but Pliskova finally got back on the scoreboard with a service hold of her own.
When Lisicki broke again and strode out to a 4-2 lead the match looked all but over.
Pliskova had other ideas and fought back from 40-30 to break when Lisicki double-faulted for the seventh time in the match.
However, Pliskova was immediately broken again, and Lisicki served out to seal the match, collapsing to the court in joyful celebration after ending a drought of almost three years without a singles title.
“I really enjoyed it here in Hong Kong and I think that’s the reason I played so well,” said Lisicki, who is to head for Tokyo this week as the women’s tour continues its Asian swing.
KEY GOAL: Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei is now free to focus on taking her fourth doubles title of the year with Barbora Strycova; they are due to face Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya Taiwanese No. 1 Hsieh Su-wei on Monday returned to the court for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the WTA Tour, falling to a 6-3, 6-1 defeat to US Open quarter-finalist Elise Mertens, who made a solid transition from the hard courts in New York to the clay at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. “I’m not sure how well I adapted, to be honest,” Mertens told the WTA Web site. “I just feel like I might still be struggling a little. It was also [Hsieh’s] first match of the week, so that was a bit of an
‘GREAT EVENING‘: In the women’s singles in Rome, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova advanced, while Rafael Nadal swept into the quarters in the men’s singles Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Friday had to dig deep to advance to the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The top seeds, who did not drop a game in their opening match on the clay courts at the Foro Italico, battled to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over sixth seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Katerina Siniakova in 1 hour, 39 minutes. The reigning Wimbledon champions saved nine of 11 break points and converted three of eight, winning 56 percent of points on their second serve and sending down two aces
‘FUN TIME’: Denver’s Nikola Jokic said that his team would not accept that anyone else is better than them and the opposition need to play much better than they do Just about everyone had LA versus LA written in for the NBA’s Western Conference finals, but the resilient Denver Nuggets have crashed the party. Behind Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 2009 to face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Game 1 is scheduled to be played tomorrow. This was no ordinary road. The Nuggets fell behind 3-1 in their first-round series against the Utah Jazz before bouncing back with three straight victories. Then they went down 3-1 to the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round before winning in Game 7
‘GREAT COMPETITOR’: Former French Open champion Garbine Muguruza was tested by American teenager Coco Gauff, before the Spaniard advanced in three sets Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Thursday cruised into the quarter-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia by handing their Japanese opponents a rare “double bagel,” a feat matched by US Open losing finalist Victoria Azarenka in the women’s singles. Top seeds Hsieh and Strycova took just 49 minutes to see off the challenge of Japanese duo Nao Hibino and Makoto Ninomiya 6-0, 6-0 on the clay courts at the Foro Italico in Rome. The Taiwanese-Czech duo saved both break points they faced and converted six of 14, winning 62 percent of their first