Ukrainian Elina Svitolina yesterday got the perfect boost ahead of the Australian Open by lifting the Brisbane International title with a 6-2, 6-1 win over qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
Svitolina, ranked sixth in the world, fired 10 aces and never faced a break point on her way to a 10th career tour title.
She raced to a 3-0 lead before 23-year-old Belarussian Sasnovich found her range with some lethal backhands and briefly threatened to make it a contest.
However, Svitolina unleashed a series of powerful groundstrokes to break again and clinch the first set, before running away with the second to claim the title in just more than an hour.
“It was a tough, tough off-season,” third seed Svitolina, also 23, said on court after the match. “To start with a trophy is always very, very special.”
World No. 88 Sasnovich, bidding to become the first qualifier to win the title in Brisbane, ran out of gas in her eighth match of the week and only her third career encounter against a top 10 player.
She had stunned sixth seed Kristina Mladenovic in the opening round and defeated last year’s runner-up Alize Cornet in the quarter-finals before battling past Anastasija Sevastova in the last four.
“Sorry for my play today,” Sasnovich told the crowd. “It was an incredible week for Elina — she was better than me and deserved to win. It was a good week for me.”
Svitolina, having landed her first silverware of the season, heads to the Australian Open with her eyes fixed firmly on a maiden Grand Slam trophy.
AFP, PERTH, Australia
Roger Federer’s perfect start to the new year continued yesterday when he dismantled the game of world No. 4 Alexander Zverev in the final of the mixed teams Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia.
Unbeaten in his three singles matches in the tournament prior to the final as he prepared for his Australian Open title defense, the 19-time Grand Slam champion dropped the first set against Zverev, but recovered to win in three sets, 6-7 (4/7), 6-0, 6-2.
It gave Switzerland a 1-0 lead in the final, with Federer aiming to add to the title he won in Perth with Martina Hingis in 2001.
Zverev came out all guns blazing in a high-intensity first set where both players produced moments of brilliance, with both holding multiple break points.
However, the young German managed to prevail in the tiebreaker as he aimed to repeat his singles win over Federer at the Hopman Cup last year, when all three sets were decided by tiebreakers.
Federer’s frustration was obvious, dropping his racket after missing an easy volley and then launching a ball toward the roof.
However, it soon passed as he started to blunt the German’s power and his superior court craft turned the momentum.
Federer took pace off his shots and used the drop shot repeatedly to catch Zverev out, racing through the second set.
The German was the one who lost his cool as the match slipped away, copping a code violation for an audible obscenity after disputing the chair umpire’s decision to replay a Zverev serve in the second set.
Zverev’s serve, and resolve, was broken in the third game of the third set and fittingly it was a Federer drop shot which sealed the win.
“I played great throughout the three sets and Sasha probably dropped his level a little bit in the second and third sets,” he said. “I was able to put Switzerland ahead so I am very happy.”
AFP, AUCKLAND, New Zealand
Top seed Caroline Wozniacki yesterday survived an early scare to join Julia Goerges in the WTA Auckland Classic final after an exhausting day involving the quarter and semi-finals, while Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei was defeated in the semis.
While second-seed Goerges progressed comfortably, winning both her matches in straight sets, Wozniacki found herself a set down in her quarter-final against 19-year-old American Sofia Kenin, but she regrouped to beat Kenin 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, then overcame another patchy start to beat Sachia Vickery 6-4, 6-4 in the semis.
“I’m exhausted,” the 27-year-old Wozniacki said after spending nearly five hours on court. “It’s a tough start to the season coming out here and playing three sets this morning and then two tough sets now. I’m not 17 anymore, I can feel that for sure.”
The incessant rain that washed out play on the previous two days abated to occasional showers that left enough time to allow the two rounds to be completed.
Third seed Barbora Strycova from the Czech Republic and fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska from Poland were both beaten in the quarter-final, but their victors, Hsieh and Vickery, progressed no further.
Hsieh fell to Goerges in the semi-final 6-1, 6-4 after 1 hour and 14 minutes of play.
Wozniacki started her semi-final against Vickery with two aces, then raced to a 5-1 lead before twice dropping her serve.
The Dane recovered to win the opening set, but needed nearly 11 minutes to win her second service game en route to beating the US qualifier.
Goerges, who defeated Polona Hercog 6-4, 6-4, then Hsieh 6-1, 6-4, is through to her second Auckland final after finishing runner-up two years ago.
“When you are in a final you want to win it and it would mean a lot to me,” she said. “Since I have been coming nine times already so maybe it’s time for it.”
The world No. 14 from Germany said it had been mentally tough to play two matches in a day, but she was in good physical condition.
“In doubles you have someone to talk to and here you have just yourself,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s sometimes so nice to talk to yourself. In general, I’m feeling good.”
Today’s final is to be the 10th meeting between Goerges and Wozniacki, with the German holding a 5-4 lead.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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