Chan and Hlavackova fall in final

By Dave Carroll  /  Staff reporter, with AP, SYDNEY

Sat, Jan 13, 2018 - Page 16

Taiwan’s Latisha Chan and Czech partner Andrea Sestini Hlavackova yesterday failed to pick up their first title as a pairing at the Sydney International, falling to a disappointing defeat to third seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Xu Yifan in the final.

The top seeds fell to a 6-3, 6-1 loss in 56 minutes, sending down seven double faults — including three in a row by Chan in the second set — and only winning 22 percent of their points on second serve as the Canadian-Chinese duo celebrated their third title after victories in Miami and Connecticut last year.

“We had a really good season last year and I’m excited for 2018,” Dabrowski said at the trophy presentation. “Hopefully, we can have some more good results together.”

The Taiwanese-Czech pairing saved just one of six break points and created only two, with Chan saying at the trophy presentation that the wind had been a problem for the players.

“They like the wind, I think,” Sestini Hlavackova said jokingly.

Chan and Sestini Hlavackova next travel to Melbourne to compete in the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the season, which begins on Monday next week.

In the women’s singles, Angelique Kerber won her eighth consecutive match of the new season, coming from 3-1 down in the final set to beat qualifier Camila Giorgi 6-2, 6-3 to reach the final.

Kerber, a former No. 1 and the 2016 Australian Open champion, won all four singles at the Hopman Cup and now all four in Sydney en route to the final.

She is to face Ashleigh Barty, who beat Australian compatriot Daria Gavrilova 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the other semi-final.

In a match that included 11 breaks of serve, Barty needed just one in the third set.

“It’s nice getting a bit of confidence going into our biggest tournament for us,” Barty said of next week’s Australian Open.

Gavrilova’s frustration with her serving was evident in the ninth game of the set when, soon after leveling at 4-4, she double-faulted twice and received a code violation for smashing her racket.

In the men’s semi-finals, Russian qualifier Daniil Medvedev booked a spot in the final by upsetting fourth-seeded Fabio Fognini of Italy 2-6, 6-4, 6-1.

Medvedev is to meet Australian teenager Alex de Minaur, who defeated France’s Benoit Paire 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.

HOBART INTERNATIONAL

Reuters, HOBART, Australia

Defending champion Elise Mertens of Belgium yesterday reached the Hobart International final with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 win over British qualifier Heather Watson.

Second-seeded Mertens recovered from a second-set lapse to edge Watson, who won the tournament in 2015, in 1 hour, 42 minutes.

The 22-year-old world No. 36 is to play Romania’s Mihaela Buzarnescu, who sailed past fifth-seeded Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko 6-2, 6-2 in the second semi-final.

“She made the same run [from qualifying] as I did last year, but I’m happy to win today,” Mertens said in an on-court interview. “I tried to play a bit more aggressive in the third set and make her run a little bit more. She was dictating me in the second set, all credits to her. She played an amazing match.”

After a tight opener that was decided by a single break of serve, Watson, ranked 74th in the world, fought back to square the match, but her hopes of winning a fourth WTA title were dashed due to unforced errors.

ATP AUCKLAND OPEN

Reuters, AUCKLAND, New Zealand

Juan Martin del Potro yesterday overcame a stubborn challenge from David Ferrer to clinch their semi-final 6-4, 6-4 and advance to a title showdown against Roberto Bautista Agut in the ATP Auckland Open.

Del Potro, who sealed the Auckland title in 2009, shined in the key moments and fought off six of the seven break points Ferrer forged in a tense clash, with two games in the second set lasting almost 10 minutes apiece.

However, the Argentine’s massive forehand was the major defining factor in the match as he worked himself into a position to drive winner after winner past the Spaniard and clinched the semi-final in 1 hour, 46 minutes.

Del Potro is on Monday next week to enter the top 10 for the first time since August 2010 ahead of his Australian Open first-round clash against American teenager Frances Tiafoe.

Earlier, fifth seed Bautista Agut outlasted Dutchman Robin Haase in an epic clash that took almost three hours before the Spaniard produced an audacious backhand lob that kissed the baseline to clinch the 6-7 (7/9), 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (7/5) win.

“The end was unbelievable,” Bautista Agut said. “When I saw the ball was in, I went crazy.”