By Ros Satar

  • Naomi Broady came out on top of a bad-tempered match up with wildcard Jelena Ostapenko 4-6 7-6(4) 7-5
  • Saves two match points and comes back from 1-5 down in the third set
  • Head-to-Head with Sloane Stephens: 1-1

AUCKLAND, NZ – Qualifier Naomi Broady clawed her way into the Auckland semi-finals in an emotionally charged battle with wildcard Jelena Ostapenko.

After losing her first service game, Broady hit straight back, as the momentum switched in the first set between the Brit and the Latvian teenager, and it took her three set points to break Broady for the first set.

As Ostapenko went up a break in the second set, and was within touching distance of sealing a straight sets win for 2-0 head to head over Broady, the Brit broke back to give herself another fighting chance, forcing a tie-breaker, and a whole heap of drama.

Edging ahead in the tie-break, Ostapenko tossed her racquet at the ball, hitting a ball-boy in the process resulting in an exchange between Broady and the umpire for a possible default. With the supervisor getting involved, Ostapenko was eventually given a code violation – cue her own little confab with the authorities.

It was a lengthy distraction and it really would come down to who could get their head back in the game, as Ostapenko wavered with a brace of double faults, Broady was back in the game.

But not for long, as the Latvian quickly sped out to a 5-1 lead. It just seemed to be a match too far for Broady, who had already come through a bit of a humdinger in the final round of qualifying, beating the top seed Magdalena Rybarikova, before scalping Ivanovic in straight sets.

Yet somehow she found a way to dig it back out as Ostapenko wobbled once more, as Broady edged the match 4-6, 76(4) 7-5. Things did not end there though, as the pair continued to have an exchange after a somewhat chilly handshake.

The twitter-verse erupted as fans welcomed a true return to the tennis season with all the drama it brings, especially after the depression surrounding the injury concerns of three of the top players in the women’s game in a season just 5 days old at the time!

Broady explained in her press conference after the match that she was responding to her opponent’s comment at the handshake.

As reported in TVNZ, she said: “Jelena commented that my behavior was terrible, which I thought was a bit out of order considering the events that had gone on in the match. I don’t think I did anything disrespectful to her or anyone else on the court.”

Neverthless she also felt the need to explain to fans and observers alike on her Twitter account

Looking ahead now, she has another tough battle ahead with fifth seed Sloane Stephens. Now with new coach Kamau Murray, she made things a little hard for herself in her opener, generously giving away her leads in both sets before closing out a 6-3 6-3 win over Polona Hercog.

She was pulled to three sets in her second round encounter with Carina Witthoeft, fighting from a set down to book her place against the feisty Stockporter.

She will need to keep her focus against the powerful-hitting and fleet of foot Stephens, as well as take belief that she has the ability to come back at her time and again. But it has been a tough week for the Brit, with five matches in her legs, and a couple of taut three-setters.

With just the Apia International in Sydney and Australian Open qualifying all jammed into the one remaining week before the start of the first Slam of the year it is the best possible start for the British No. 3 and Stephens is by no means any less or more of a potential challenge than the No. 2 seed had been.

The pair have split their head to head on grass, and Stephens can be like a whippet across a hard court, and has always impressed with her steadiness and all court game. But Broady’s confidence is up, and she is not shy of a decent serve to get her out of trouble, as we saw today and Stephens came out to scout a little of the match, post drama.

Either way, a WTA International quarter-final to start the season is no slouch, and Broady just may spring the surprise again.

Broady and Stephens are scheduled on Centre Court, not before 8pm (7am GMT).


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