Tagged in: rust

Halep starts clay season with dominant win over Vondrousova

Simona Halep returned from injury to begin her clay-court season with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Marketa Vondrousova on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals of the Porsche Grand Prix.

The third-ranked Romanian was back on court for the first time since a shoulder injury forced her out of the Miami Open last month, and it was only her second match since her straight-sets loss to Serena Williams in the Australian Open quarterfinals in February.

“Starting the clay-court season makes me very happy and motivated, extra motivated actually,” Halep said in a post-match news conference.

“I missed playing matches. I had a few weeks without an official match and it was kind of tough when I started the match, but my mind was strong enough just to give focus on what I have to play. So, I did it great and today it was a great match.

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“I was a little bit nervous before the match because I played twice against her and she beat me every time.

There was no sign of rust as Halep wrapped up her victory over Vondrousova in less than an hour without facing a single break point.

Halep will play Ekaterina Alexandrova in the quarterfinals after the Russian upset eighth-seeded Belinda Bencic 6-1, 7-5.

Elina Svitolina came through a tougher test as she defeats three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber 7-6 (4), 6-3. Svitolina was 3-1 down in the tiebreaker before winning six of the next seven points, and she didn’t face a break point in the second set. The fourth-seeded Ukrainian will face Petra Kvitova in the quarters.

Karolina Pliskova hit 21 aces as she beat former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-7 (7), 6-4, 6-3 to set up a meeting with top-ranked Ash Barty.

Fifth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka swept past Anna-Lena Friedsam 6-4, 6-2. Sabalenka next faces Anett Kontaveit, who eliminated Sofia Kenin on Wednesday.

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Tiger Woods produces late birdies to make Memorial cut

Tiger Woods fought back from looking almost convinced to miss the cut at the Memorial to produce two birdies in the last three holes to survive until the weekend.

Yet as much as this great escape reminded the game of the 44-year-old’s enduring competitive spirit, for Woods, himself, this was further evidence of Father Time’s cruelty. “Ageing is not fun,” Woods said after his 76. “Early on in my career I thought it was fantastic because I was getting better and better and better. And now I’m just trying to hold on.”

In fairness, this was Woods first competitive event in five months and only his third of 2020. Rust was predictable. Except it was worrying that, after birdieing his third hole (the 12th) when hitting his tee-shot to within two feet on the 170-yard par three, he proceeded to drop six shots in the following eight holes.

Woods’s back was sore and his body language gave it away. “I wasn’t quite moving as well as I’d like and couldn’t quite turn back and couldn’t quite clear – It was a bit of a struggle,”

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Woods, the five-time Memorial champion, said. “It started this morning during the warm-up. It wasn’t quite as good as I’d like. [But] I finished birdie-birdie-par and that’s about the only positive to it today. I would like to have the opportunity to play tomorrow.”

Alongside Woods at Muirfield Village, Rory McIlroy shot a level-par 72 for two-under, five better than his playing partner.

The Northern Irishman faces a fight for the world No 1 position this weekend with Jon Rahm looming menacingly on the leaderboard on an assignment to become just the second Spaniard in history to top the rankings.

Jose Maria Olazabal never managed it and neither did Sergio Garcia, despite both winning the Masters. The late Severiano Ballesteros stands alone and as the great conquistador happens to be Rahm’s inspiration, prepare for some rich Iberian emotion should the 25-year-old climb to the summit in Ohio.

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