Simona Halep batters Karolina Pliskova to reach Australian Open semifinals

World number one Simona Halep overcame a nervous start against Karolina Pliskova before taking a 6-3, 6-2 victory in 1 hour and 11 minutes on Rod Laver Arena. (AFP)
Updated 24 January 2018
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Simona Halep batters Karolina Pliskova to reach Australian Open semifinals

MELBOURNE: World number one Simona Halep overcame a nervous start to batter sixth seed Karolina Pliskova into submission in their Australian Open quarter-final on Wednesday.
The Romanian reeled off nine games in a row and 12 of the last 14 games to recover from 0-3 en route to a 6-3, 6-2 victory 1hr 11min on Rod Laver Arena.
“It’s really nice to be in the semis,” said Halep after moving into the last four at Melbourne Park for the first time, where she will face 2016 champion Angelique Kerber.
Halep had taken three sets to beat Pliskova in their previous meeting, a semifinal at Roland Garros last year, and started shakily, struggling to time her serve or groundstrokes.
But once she saved a break point at 0-3 to get on the scoreboard, her confidence grew against an opponent who has never gone beyond the last eight in Melbourne.
“For sure it wasn’t my best start but I knew I had to restart after three games to stop missing and move better,” said Halep, whose relentless chasing and powerful groundstrokes overwhelmed her taller, tattooed opponent.
“I started to open the court and play my style, and I served well today. Everything went pretty much my way,” added Halep who showed no fitness concerns after carrying a painful ankle throughout the tournament.
She moved smoothly and freely throughout and will be glad to have got off court so quickly. The Romanian had confessed to be “aching everywhere” after being taken to 15-13 in the third set of a marathon third-round match against Lauren Davis.
Pliskova was the top-rated server on the WTA Tour in 2017 but it took her until the sixth game of the second set to record her first ace.
A second followed on the next point but the match was already gone and Halep moved into her an enticing clash against former number one Kerber.
Kerber, seeded 21, is in form and will return to the world’s top 10 on the back of a 14-match winning streak in Australia.
Earlier, the German enjoyed a similarly dominant romp past last year’s US Open finalist Madison Keys 6-1, 6-2.
“For sure Kerber is going to be different,” said Halep.
“She’s moving pretty well and returning the ball very strong and many in the court.
“I have to be ready in my legs and be calm. I have to dominate the match and try to finish the point. Just try to play my best.”


Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir ‘100 percent ready’ to face England, says coach

Updated 4 min 56 sec ago
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Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir ‘100 percent ready’ to face England, says coach

  • Left-armer is fit after a knee injury
  • “He’s fine, he’s ready to go,” says team coach Mickey Arthur

LONDON: Pakistan spearhead Mohammad Amir is “100 percent ready” for the first Test against England at Lord’s starting on Thursday despite a knee injury, according to team coach Mickey Arthur.
The left-arm fast bowler was seen stretching out his right knee as Pakistan beat Test debutants Ireland by five wickets during a one-off match in Malahide, Dublin concluded last week.
Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood suggested Amir had suffered a recurrence of a “chronic” problem.
But head coach Arthur, speaking to reporters at Lord’s on Tuesday, had no qualms about the fitness of Amir.
“He’s perfect, 100 percent,” Arthur insisted. “He’s fine, he’s ready to go.”
As for Amir, missing Pakistan’s final warm-up match ahead of the two-Test England series, last weekend’s drawn match against Leicestershire, Arthur added: “It was his rotation. (Mohammad) Abbas sat out the first (tour) game, Hasan (Ali) sat out the second, so he sat out the third.”
Amir was the hottest property in world cricket after bursting on the scene as a teenager in 2009 and at 18 he was the youngest bowler to have taken 50 Test wickets.
But his world was turned upside down in 2010 when he became involved in a spot-fixing scandal after deliberately bowling no-balls during the Lord’s Test against England — an incident that would eventually see him sent to prison by an English court and given a five-year ban by the International Cricket Council.
Amir’s first 14 Tests saw him take 51 wickets at just a fraction over 23 apiece, figures that had him on course to be an all-time great.
But the 17 Tests since his comeback two years ago have seen him take 49 wickets at a more expensive average of 34.91
Amir, and Pakistan for that matter, have not been helped by the fact that those 17 Tests since 2016 have also seen 16 catches dropped off his bowling.
The stigma of his spot-fixing exile has started to fade, with Amir playing for Pakistan during their 2-2 draw in a four-Test series in England two years ago.
He also starred for Essex as they won English domestic cricket’s first-class County Championship title last season.
Now the 26-year-old Amir is set to be the leader of an inexperienced Pakistan attack.
England, who didn’t manage a single win during their recent seven combined Tests in Australia and New Zealand, collapsed to 58 all out in Auckland in March as Kiwi left-arm quick Trent Boult took six wickets.
And Arthur backed Amir to do similar damage
“I think Mohammad Amir is the finest exponent of pace and swing when he gets it 100 percent right,” Arthur said.
“We’ve used that spell that Trent Boult bowled in Auckland. We’ve had a look at his lengths.
“We believe he (Amir) bowls incredibly well at left-handers and there will be three left-handers (Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan) in the (England) top four.
“He’s ready, I just hope it goes really well for him because he’s been unlucky at times with the amount of dropped catches.
“He’s ready, he’s determined, he’s fit, he’s strong, he’s excited, he’s in a very good place at the moment.”
Arthur is unusual in having served as the head coach of three leading nations — his native South Africa, Australia and Pakistan.
But he was adamant he had no desire to replace Trevor Bayliss when the Australian steps down as England coach next year.
“No, I’m very happy,” Arthur said. “I’d like to keep going with Pakistan for as long as they will have me because it’s unfinished business for us at the moment. This is a very young cricket team and I worry if we move on what happens to these guys. Their fitness regime is outstanding, they are training hard and they are enjoying their cricket. I’m very, very happy with where I am at the moment,” he insisted.