Stephens, Pliskova win opening matches at San Diego Open

SAN DIEGO (AP): Former US Open champion Sloane Stephens and Karolina Pliskova, a one-time US Open runner-up, won their opening matches at the San Diego Open WTA 500 on Tuesday.

Stephens, a wild-card entrant from the US who won the 2017 US Open, got her second win in 2022 over lucky loser Jil Teichmann, beating the Swiss lefthander 6-1, 7-6 (2). Pliskova, a former No. 1 from the Czech Republic who was the 2016 US Open runner-up, beat American Caroilne Dolehide 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the second round.

“It’s always a tough match with her. She’s a great player,” said the 52nd-ranked Stephens, who saved a set point in the second set. “I knew she was going to come out and give me a good fight. I just tried to stay calm and play my game. In the end, it went my way.”

Leylah Fernandez, the US Open 2021 runner-up, dropped her second match this year to No. 8 seed Daria Kasatkina, 6-2, 6-2, in just 59 minutes.

“Dasha is an amazing player. She’s improved so much over the years,” Fernandez observed. “I watched her play on TV when I was still a junior. Seeing her now in the top 10 and doing so well this year is truly inspiring. I think today she showed how well she can play. She didn’t make too many mistakes. I, unfortunately, did.”

Croatia’s Donna Vekic beat fifth-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece for the fifth time in seven meetings, 7-6 (3), 6-1.

“Maria is a really good friend of mine. I wasn’t happy to play her. I think we were both pretty nervous at the beginning, but I managed to calm down a little bit and I think I found my zone in the second set,” said the 77th-ranked Vekic, who now owns nine career wins over Top-10 opponents, including an upset of No. 3 Aryna Sabalenka last summer at the Tokyo Olympics.

“I was really happy when I found out that she took a wild card at the last second and was coming here,” added Vekic. “I texted her straight away. When the draw came out, I was like, ‘Oh, my God, we’re playing each other!’ It’s not easy. We fight on the court, but we’re still close off the court.”

Vekic, 26, finished with seven aces and converted five of six break-point opportunities.

Ireland qualify for women’s World Cup as Scotland, Wales miss out

GLASGOW (AFP): Amber Barrett came off the bench to send the Republic of Ireland to the Women’s World Cup finals for the first time in their history with a 1-0 win over Scotland at Hampden Park on Tuesday.

Barrett produced a cool finish 18 minutes from time after Real Madrid star Caroline Weir had a first-half penalty saved for Scotland.

Both sides started the night unsure of their respective fates, but Portugal’s win over Iceland meant a win would be enough for either side to seal their place in Australia and New Zealand next year.

Switzerland are also headed to the World Cup after coming from behind to beat Wales 2-1.

Rhainnon Roberts put the visitors in front in Zurich, but Ramona Bachmann levelled to sent the game into extra-time. Fabienne Humm then struck the winner for the Swiss.

Portugal’s extra-time win over Iceland was not enough to guarantee qualification as they now face an inter-confederation playoff in New Zealand in February.