After a day of quarantine to test and isolate the people affected by Covid-19, the women's circuit will finally be able to gather a prestigious line-up for these quarter finals of the Gippsland Trophy and the Yarra Valley. No less than 13 seeds are still competing for the remaining 16 places, including the 5 best players in the world (Barty, Halep, Osaka, Kenin and Svitolina) accompanied by Serena Williams, Garbine Muguruza and Elise Mertens. Presentation of the 8 quarter-finals.

At Yarra Valley, seven out of the eight seeds, including No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and No. 2 Sofia Kenin, will be present. The only intruder is American Shelby Rogers, 60th in the world. Four Americans are still in the last group, among them Serena Williams who will be opposed to her compatriot Danielle Collins.

Sofia Kenin suffered to push aside her compatriot Jessica Pegula (5-7, 7-5, 6-2). Pegula was serving to lead 5-2 in the second set but finally she was joined by the defending Australian Open champion: "I was down by one set and 4-1 in the second set. With my back to the wall, I started to fight, I found my rhythm", said Kenin after the match. "I was happy with the way I was able to change the match court in the second set. During the first hour I did some things wrong. Then I made some adjustments. "The next match for Kenin was this duel against Garbiñe Muguruza, who was a very easy winner (6-1, 6-2) over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. This quarter-final is a revenge for the final of the 2020 Australian Open: "I can't wait to face him again and try to turn the score around. I'm excited because it was a match where we both played well and she ended up seizing the best opportunities and winning the title. I love playing against the best players in the world. »

First of all, it should be noted that the match will be played on the Margaret Court, roof closed in case of rain, with a 3rd set transformed into a deciding game on 10 points. The context is not the same as last year's final. Kenin lives a very mixed beginning of the season. His body language is enormously dependent on his results, especially at the moment. And against Giorgi, because of some problems during the match with her father who is also her coach, she realized a first set with a lot of direct mistakes. Fortunately, she took advantage of a physical problem of the Italian to pass the round. Against Pegula, she was mistreated during 1 set and a half, it was without demerit for Jessica, clearly. Sofia was still very much at fault when Pegula played a bit longer. Pegula easily dominated the match until 7-5 4-1 but Jessica completely broke down physically with a much less frisky footwork and a lot of fouls. That's when Kenin took his chance. She played with a little more application with a little less haste and she managed to win the match. Muguruza is much more serene than Kenin since she played this final last season. She has regained some stability and that's to her credit. After having played her first tournament in Abu Dhabi where she got her legs well, she produced two very satisfying first rounds. She broke only once in 2 matches against Van Uytvanck and Pavlyuchenkova. They are two players who like to make the difference very early in the exchange. With her very consistent play, she made them crack in no time. It's the kind of play she likes to face. Kenin is also rushing a lot at the beginning of the season. She is on alternating current because it can quickly unplug or make the winning shot. This is what can correspond to Garbine who serves well, who covers the court very well and who knows how to play with a lot of length in the multiple zones of the court. So a favourite status at 1.50, is that really worth it? Kenin still beat her last season on this same Australian tour and today she knows she will be an outsider. A bit risky to bet on the Spanish girl even if she has more arguments to put forward.  

Ashleigh Barty had a victory in three acts against Marie Bouzkova (52nd). At first sparkling, then scrappy, she finally concluded the match with a 3rd set (6-0, 4-6, 6-3) by signing a total of 7 aces and breaking the Czech six times. "It's always nice to test your legs and get into some tough matches", said Barty at the press conference. "There were ebbs and flows, but I'm happy to have won in three sets and to have been able to change things a little bit in the third set to find my way back. "In the quarters, the world No. 1 will take on Shelby Rogers, who knocked down Petra Martic, (7-6, 6-3): "Shelby has always had the ability to play great games," said Barty, assessing her future opponent. "She played a big game, a great game. I know she has suffered some injuries in the past...but I've played her a few times and we've always had big, big battles. She is a real attacker, she likes to play in these conditions, so I think I will have to put on my running shoes and try to neutralise her attacks as best I can and as often as possible and then set my pace. » Beware of the American who will have absolutely nothing to lose to the world's number one. Rogers is a powerful player with a very good serve that reminds us of former player Davenport. The two players only met once in 2017 at the Australian Open, with the Australian winning in two sets. Yes, but here it is! The context is quite different. Barty hasn't played again since February 2020 and got a fright against the world's 46th player, the Czech Maria Bouzkova by winning in 3 sets. If the American serves well, she could cause a lot of problems for the Australian. Favourite yes but Barty's odds are too risky in the context of this match.

After a hard fought match, Danielle Collins finally managed to take the victory despite her outsider status against Karolina Pliskova in two tie-breaks. More consistent in the exchanges and sharp in the important moments, the American confirmed the excellent dynamics of these last two games. The key of the match rested on the 32 winning returns of Collins against the 6th in the world and one of the best waitresses on the circuit. Her performance enabled her to face her compatriot Serena Williams in the quarter-finals and to aim for a second performance a little more "XXL". Serena Williams continues her convincing preparation for the Australian Open, after having won easily this Wednesday (6-1, 6-4) against Tsvetena Pironkova, for the sixth time in six matches against a Bulgarian, who is definitely not able to find the key to hinder Serena. It has to be said that the American shows an impressive level of play on this recovery. She only spent 74 minutes on the field and didn't concede a single break ball (80% of success on her first ball): "It's really nice to win again. Tsvetana Pironkova is really a great player. So it wasn't easy to win and it's good to have done it," said Williams after the match. This new match between the two Americans promises to be exciting. Despite her status as an outsider (30% chance of victory for the bookmakers), Collins has nothing to envy to Serena and has undeniable assets to come and disturb her. The variety of her shots and her efficiency in return of serve have allowed her not to concede a single set since the beginning of the tournament. Serena has been warned that she will have to confirm her dominance on her serves and read Collins' varied system of play to set the rhythm of her moves and avoid being caught off guard on the preparation of her shots.

Marketa Vondrousova finds some colours again at the beginning of the season after a still very complicated year 2020. She made herself known to the general public at Roland Garros 2019 with a final lost to Ashleigh Barty. On the side of Melbourne, the Czech rider had a rather simple first round against Gracheva, but in the second match against Vera Zvonareva, she had to battle for 3 hours to beat the Russian. It was a very tough match during which Vondrousova alternated between the good and the not so good. She likes to make her opponents work to wait for the foul. She is not a player of the style to come and take the lead in the exchange. She particularly likes to make her opponents move backwards in order to distil amortizations of which she alone has the secret. She will face Nadia Podoroska, the faller of her compatriot Petra Kivtova in the previous round. Argentina showed solidity and intelligence to counter the powerful Czech Republic as it should have done with a rediscovered quality of service (74 % of first balls), an essential weapon in their game. This varied and precise service enabled him to always find beautiful areas. Her game is carried forward with more impressive striking power and ball speed, which increases in power. She has shown that she is able to compete with powerful players. She appreciates having the time to build her attacks by varying spin and ball trajectories. In this quarter-final, she should have this precious time. Nadia Podoroska is an outsider in this match. A normal tendency because she has not yet totally proved herself on hard at the WTA level. Nevertheless, she has all her chances in this match. She is going to work on her points and could well wear out the Czech rider who should spend his time running behind his line. Vondrousova has a tendency to become passive and to have air holes. The physical condition could well be a point that will make the match lean, because we know the shortcomings of Marketa who struggles to follow up the good performances since his return to competition at the beginning of 2020 after his serious wrist injury.  

Relive the successful match ball by Elise Mertens against Elina Svitolina (video)

In Gippsland, the poster of the day will feature Elise Mertens versus Elina Svitolina. They are two players who look very much alike. In terms of their state of mind, they are two warriors who work very hard in training to be even stronger. Mertens has reached the quarter-finals in almost every tournament since 2020. With her multi-surface play, the Belgian has all the qualities to be in the top 10 in the long term. But she lacks one thing that is essential for her to pass a plateau: beating the top players on the circuit. We are talking about her numerous quarter-finals, but it is important to know that out of her 8 quarter-finals, she hasn't won a single title and has only played in two lost finals. It is very often the Pliskova, Osaka, Halep, Sabalenka who deprive her of a title. We expect her to pass this level this season because she is a player with very few faults. Svitolina has much more experience. By way of comparison, she won two titles in 2020 in Monterrey and Strasbourg. She can also perform on all surfaces. And like Mertens, her work in training is very demanding. She works hard to get better and better year after year. After an easy first round win, she found it harder to get rid of Jelena Ostapenko. The latter gave her a hard time by finding a breathtaking level during a whole set, full of devastating winning moves. But as is often the case in the mind, Elina then regained the upper hand psychologically against a fragile player. Mertens and Svitolina are two players who have a very nice backhand. Svitolina is certainly less comfortable on her forehand than Mertens but the match should not be played on that. We have seen this in Abu Dhabi, where Svitolina was dominated by Alexandrova. It was the steel mentality of the Ukrainian that made the difference. Moreover, in a potentially decisive 3rd set which will be played on a few points, the match can very well be played in the head. Svitolina, even still young, manages these moments better. She can handle the pressure better and knows, unlike Mertens, how to make the difference in the important moments of a tournament and a match. So unless Mertens gives the Ukrainian a tennistic lesson or the latter makes a non-match, Svitolina should take the lead with all her experience and her very good management in the important moments. Svitolina's status as an outsider is a real surprise especially as she leads 3-1 in the confrontations.  

Karolina Muchova is doing a really solid tournament. A first round won with the way against McNally. A second round much more complicated, but she has been able to raise her level of play to beat a very solid Paolini on her line. The Czech rider always impresses as much on serve (80% of the points won behind her first ball). Her forward and aggressive play always impresses as much with nice variations of rhythm or effects. Her defensive skills are really interesting, she is able to cover a large part of the court. Her sliced backhand is often well used to slow down the game allowing her to reposition herself. She will meet Kaia Kanepi who impresses since the beginning of the tournament in spite of a very complicated first match against the Australian Sharma. Two other rounds where she played well against Sabalenka and Kasatkina. The Estonian is often underestimated but capable of very nice matches. Her defect remains the physical aspect and the lack of regularity since 2015 when she has totally dropped in the rankings. She doesn't offer a lot of variation and bases all her play on her power. With her big size, she likes to hit at hip height and not on low balls. She likes to dictate the exchange and not suffer. Karolina Muchova might well have the style of play to counter the Estonian's plans. The Czech likes to attack and go forward with variation and low, deep sliced balls in the exchanges. Her serve is less powerful but more varied and effective than Kanepi's. All these little elements led together suggest that Muchova really has a chance in this match.

Among the other matches, Simona Halep, who defeated Laura Siegemund (6-2, 6-4) thanks to a good first ball (73% of points won and no break conceded), will face the Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova. "I can say that I am happy", said Halep. "It was a bit difficult in the second set at the beginning, I was without energy, but I remained concentrated. I knew she was going to change her rhythm a lot. She did a lot of dampers but I was ready for it. I feel like I played much better than in the first round. "The Romanian will start as favourite against the Russian, who beat Iga Swiatek (6-4, 6-2). So we won't have the revenge of the Round of 16 at Roland Garros, where the Polish player crushed Simona Halep. The Romanian was only a postponed game but no doubt that she was looking forward to her reunion... If the match is played indoors, then the game can go both ways and this may explain why Halep is less comfortable indoors than outdoors. The Russian is unpredictable and can pull off a great match to take on the Romanian.

Finally the last quarter-final will oppose Naomi Osaka who has won for the 13th consecutive time since the restart in August. The Japanese rider, winner of the US Open, seems unstoppable. However, her beginning was difficult against the 371st world champion Katie Boulter (3-6, 6-3, 6-1). But she manages to better control the events, the scenarios and her emotions: "After losing the first set, I wanted to fight as hard as possible. She played really incredibly well. So I thought that if I lost at the end of the day it wouldn't matter, but I just wanted to do my best not to have any regrets. I like to play long games because I feel I can gauge the state of the field and that my physical condition is improving. I played a short match on Tuesday, so maybe unconsciously I felt I needed to play a long match today." Indeed, Osaka didn't seem very concerned about the first set but the rest was a recital with 36 winning shots. "I couldn't have dreamed of a better match in preparation. I think it was very different from my match in the first round. I'm very happy with the way it went. Even though it took a long time, I think there are a lot of things I learned in this match." Osaka will face Irina Begu for the first time, who also beat Johanna Konta in a long game. It was even the longest match of the early season in 2021. A success in 3h23 (4-6, 7-6, 7-6) on her 9th match ball after saving two in favour of the British.

Editor's note ⭐️⭐️⭐️ --- ⭐️⭐️ --- ⭐️ Victory of Svitolina / Victory of Muchova

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