Leading women shown door early

Kerber and Cibulkova bite dust in Brisbane, Wozzy ousted in Auckland and Aga in China

Elina Svitolina making a backhand return to Angelique Kerber in their quarter-final in Brisbane. The Ukrainian took out the two-time Grand Slam champion in three sets.
Elina Svitolina making a backhand return to Angelique Kerber in their quarter-final in Brisbane. The Ukrainian took out the two-time Grand Slam champion in three sets.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

BRISBANE • The Brisbane International lost its top two women's seeds yesterday, when Angelique Kerber and Dominika Cibulkova were both bundled out in the quarter-finals of the season-opening tournament.

World No. 1 Kerber made 48 unforced errors, including five double faults, as she went down to Ukraine's Elina Svitolina 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, while France's Alize Cornet eliminated Cibulkova 6-3, 7-5.

Kerber started slowly against Svitolina, who broke the German early and held the advantage to take the opening set. Kerber struck back in the second and appeared to take command of the match when she broke Svitolina at the start of the third.

However, the sixth-seeded Ukrainian broke back to level the set, then broke again to move to 5-3, holding comfortably to claim her fourth win against Kerber in nine meetings.

Kerber said she was not worried about how the early loss would affect the defence of her Australian Open crown.

"I think Grand Slams are always completely different," she said. "It doesn't matter how you play before. Of course, it's always good to have matches, especially at the beginning of the year.

Svitolina will now take on third- seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova, who came back from losing the first set to Italian Roberta Vinci to win her quarter-final 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.

In the first match on Pat Rafter Arena, Cornet was in irresistible form as she blunted everything Cibulkova threw at her to win a tight struggle in 123 minutes.

The more settled and mature Frenchwoman said there was no reason why she could not get back into the world top 20 for the first time since 2014.

"I've always had a lack of consistency during my career and maybe the fact that I'm 26, I'm a little bit older now, I have more experience and I feel like maybe I'm touching something during this week in Brisbane," she said.

She next faces reigning French Open champion Garbine Muguruza, who edged out Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 6-4.

The Spaniard has now been on court for almost 71/2 hours in her opening three rounds but although she admitted to being tired, she said it was good preparation for the Australian Open.

There were other upsets around the globe yesterday. In Auckland, unseeded German Julia Goerges burst into the WTA Auckland Classic limelight with a dramatic 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 win to oust Caroline Wozniacki, nicknamed Wozzy, in the quarter-finals. The defeat of the Danish third seed and former world No. 1 eliminated the last of the tournament drawcards, a day after the exit of the two top seeds, Serena and Venus Williams.

In Shenzhen, top seed Agnieszka Radwanska, nicknamed Aga, crashed out of the Shenzhen Open quarter-finals, falling to America's Alison Riske 6-2, 3-6, 6-0.

But in Doha, men's world No. 1 Andy Murray managed to eke out a 7-6 (8-6), 7-5 win over Austrian Gerald Melzer to reach the Qatar Open quarter-finals on Wednesday.

It was his 26th straight victory on the ATP Tour, but the Scot said: "I was a bit lucky to get through. He played great, great tennis, he was winning large parts of the match."


Singles s-finals & doubles final: Singtel TV Ch110, 9.30pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2017, with the headline 'Leading women shown door early'. Print Edition | Subscribe