Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Czech partner Barbora Strycova yesterday took just 56 minutes to book a women’s doubles semi-final berth at the Australian Open, while the Chan sisters produced the only upset of the quarter-finals to also advance at Melbourne Park.
Top seeds Hsieh and Strycova crushed American pairing Jennifer Brady and Caroline Dolehide 6-2, 6-2 on Court 3 to keep their bid for a second Grand Slam title on track.
The reigning Wimbledon champions converted five of seven break points, won 51 percent of their receiving points and hit 15 winners to set up a semi-final today against Czech fourth seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, who rallied from a set down to defeat sixth seeds Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in 1 hour, 50 minutes.
Also advancing were Taiwanese seventh seeds Chan Hao-ching and Latisha Chan, who pulled off a shock by ousting third seeds Elise Mertens of Belgium and Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus 7-6 (9/7), 6-2 in 1 hour, 37 minutes.
While the third seeds sent down eight aces, the Chan sisters made 84 percent of their first serves, saved five of eight break points — four at 4-4 in the ninth game of the opening set which they crucially went on to win — and converted five of eight.
The seventh seeds face Timea Babos of Hungary and Kristina Mladenovic of France in today’s semi-finals after the second seeds coasted to a 6-2, 6-4 victory over unseeded Americans Coco Gauff and Catherine McNally in 1 hour, 20 minutes.
Latisha Chan was back on court later yesterday alongside Croatian partner Ivan Dodig in the mixed doubles as the sixth seeds, and reigning French Open and Wimbledon champions, claimed a quarter-final berth with a 6-3, 4-6, 10-8 victory over Andreja Klepac of Slovenia and Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France.
Meanwhile, Ash Barty — world No. 1 at her home Grand Slam — felt awkward about the hype surrounding her even before the Australian Open started, but having reached her maiden semi-finals at Melbourne Park yesterday with a victory over Petra Kvitova, the 23-year-old has almost nowhere to hide.
Australia’s hopes of ending a 42-year wait for a homegrown champion are to follow Barty into her next clash against 14th seed Sofia Kenin of the US tomorrow.
As thrilling as the ride has been, Barty said she could do without all the fuss.
“No, I’d prefer to just be sitting at home just living my quiet little life,” the Queenslander told reporters. “I mean, no offence, but not having to chat to you guys every day would be pretty good. I feel like I have nothing to say. I’m talking in circles a little bit.”
“It’s incredible,” she said. “It’s a part of the journey that I hate it and I love it. It’s all the same. It’s all in good fun.”
Barty claimed her maiden Grand Slam title at last year’s French Open and became Australia’s first world No. 1 since Evonne Goolagong in the 1970s.
Her achievements last season saw her named “Young Australian of the Year” in Saturday’s national day honors.
She would need serious tunnel vision to avoid the spotlight over the coming days in Melbourne, where her face adorns billboards and her performances are front-page news.
The members of her support team are unlikely to help her much in that regard and apparently delight in making her feel awkward.
“My team members do a good job at taking the piss a little bit, sending me some of the photos,” she said. “Look, you just have to have fun with it. That’s the only way.”
Barty was trounced by Kvitova 6-1, 6-4 in last year’s quarter-finals, her first trip to the last eight of a Grand Slam, but she showed yesterday that she has learned plenty over the past year.
Given a “1,000 word” dossier on Kvitova from coach Craig Tyzzer, Barty did her homework and aced the test against the twice Wimbledon champion at the Rod Laver Arena.
Under huge pressure, Barty saved 10 out of 12 break points to book her second Grand Slam semi-final, eight months after her first Grand Slam at Roland Garros.
She was largely an unknown quantity in Paris, even to herself, but in Melbourne, she knows what she is capable of.
“They’re completely different tournaments,” she said. “I feel like I’m a different person. I’m growing as a person every single day — I’m growing as a tennis player. This is a new experience for me. I’m just going to try and take it in my stride, learn as much as I can and go from there.”
Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is buying the Forum for US$400 million, ending the billionaire’s legal fight with Madison Square Garden Co (MSG) and clearing the way to build a new arena for his NBA team down the street in Inglewood, California. Ballmer on Tuesday announced his cash purchase of the venerated arena. Ballmer, a former Microsoft executive, and Clippers vice chairman Dennis Wong are making the transaction through CAPSS LLC, a newly formed entity that would continue to operate the Forum as a live music venue. “This is an unprecedented time, but we believe in our collective future,” Ballmer said.
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