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Brisbane | Americans sweep the board

Brisbane | Americans sweep the board

Wednesday was a quiet day at the Brisbane International, with just 3 singles matches played, all won by Americans – Danielle Collins, Madison Keys and Alison Riske – amid continued criticism of the tournament organisation.

There's a lot of girls that are deserving of that centre-court spot. You definitely recognise it and notice it. It feels like a little bit of a second-hand event [to the ATP Cup]." Maria Sharapova

Keys, the No 8 seed, completed the undefeated 3-0 day for the United States, ending local wildcard Samantha Stosur’s hopes of reaching the quarter-finals for the first time in four attempts, 7-5 6-3.

The home favourite had turned in an impressive display in dispatching Angelique Kerber in her opening match but could not quite find a way past Keys.

“It’s great to get two matches under your belt,” Keys said in her post-match press conference.

“It’s always really important to feel good going into a Slam. You always just feel a little bit more comfortable once you can get that first win and then back it up with another one.

“Honestly, I think my serve has been really great and has gotten me out of some possibly tricky spots at times.

“And I think I’ve just been staying really calm and dealing with situations in a very calm manner and not freaking out.”

Former US Open champion Stosur came into the match with a spotless 3-0 head-to-head lead in their rivalry, including a three-set victory at the Miami Open last year.

“I think it was just better execution,” Keys said on turning the tables on Stosur.

“Sam obviously has a great serve and a great forehand and she’s really tricky off of her slice. So I’ve known that in the past. I just felt like in the past I wasn’t doing a great job at handling my side of the court.”

The World No 13 hit 24 winners, including 10 aces, to help propel her to her second win of the season, following a first-round victory over Marie Bouzkova on Tuesday.

With the win, Keys sets up an all-American quarter-final with World No 27 Collins later in the week.

Collins, who took out Britain’s Johanna Konta in the first round, easily dispatched the qualifier from Kazakhstan, Yulia Putinseva, 6-1 6-0, in just 58 minutes, and triumphed in her only prior meeting with Keys at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells in 2018.

“[Collins is] playing incredibly well and really ripping and going for shots and she’s making pretty much all of them right now,” Keys stated.

“So it’s one of those things where I have to go out and just try to focus on my side and see what happens.”

“[Collins is] hilarious and just very full of energy and a big personality, but she’s also like the most caring, nice person that you’ll ever meet,” Keys added.

“When she gets on a tennis court she just wants to destroy everyone who is in her way.”

Collins effectively did just that, steering past Barbora Strycova to book her Brisbane quarter-final spot, 6-3 6-4.

“It was a good win for me,” Riske said, during her post-match press conference. “[Strycova is] going to be a tough out every time you play her.

“She makes a lot of balls, she’s in every point, and she’s battling until the end. So it was definitely going to be a tough match.

“I thought I fought really hard, I played well when I needed to, and I’m definitely excited to be making the quarter-finals here.”

Riske had lost both of her two previous meetings with Strycova, but the World No 19 continued her strong momentum from the end of last season, where she cracked the Top 20 for the first time in her career, and earned a 93-minute victory over the 31st-ranked Czech.

She broke Strycova 5 times in the process.

“I think getting a couple matches under my belt and just knowing that we’re picking up where we left off is most important,” said Riske.

“I knew my tennis was there because I had been practicing very well. But obviously, the mental [side] is the most important, so I had to make sure that I had that prepared.”

Riske converted the first of her set points with a stirring forehand return winner down the line, her 12th of the opening frame, after striking only 3 unforced errors and successfully converting 3 of her 5 break points to pocket the set.

Strycova got off to a better start in the second set, breaking Riske in the opening game, but the American swiftly got back to level footing, breaking back straight away by forcing an error with another booming service return.

In the quarter-finals Riske will face either defending champion Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic or Australian wild card Ajla Tomljanovic, who contest their second-round encounter on Thursday.

If Riske faces Pliskova, the World No 2, she will face a third straight Czech opponent in the draw, having ousted 21st-ranked Karolina Muchova in the opening round before eliminating Strycova.

“I’ve never beaten Pliskova before, so I would love to have another shot at her,” Riske said. “I think that would be an awesome opportunity. I practiced with her earlier in the week and she’s playing ball.”

Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova feels the women’s Brisbane International event, which is a WTA Premier tournament, is being left ‘second-hand’ to the men’s ATP Cup, which has been happening simultaneously at the Queensland Tennis Centre.

As a result, the women’s matches have been pushed to the outside courts.

“There’s a lot of girls that are deserving of that centre-court spot,” the 147th ranked five-time Grand Slam champion said after her own match was moved.

“You definitely recognise it and notice it. It feels like a little bit of a second-hand event.”

Sharapova’s journey in the tournament in Brisbane was short-lived after she lost her first-round match against the USA’s Jennifer Brady but she is now be looking forward to the Australian Open after she was handed a wildcard entry into the first Grand Slam of the season this week.

The former World No 1’s current ranking of 147 means she would have alternatively had to go through the competition’s qualifiers to be in the main draw.

The 32-year-old, who won the Australian Open in 2008, said: “To be in the draw of the Australian Open is incredible.

“I’ve had wonderful experiences there, from holding the championship trophy to losing some very tough finals as well – there have been a lot of ups and downs in Australia.

“So to have another chance, another opportunity, to compete on all those courts is very special.”

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