Maria Sakkari Upsets Top Seed Kenin, Faces In-Form Sabalenka Next In Abu Dhabi - UBITENNIS
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Maria Sakkari Upsets Top Seed Kenin, Faces In-Form Sabalenka Next In Abu Dhabi

After knocking out the top seed, the world No.22 looks ahead to her semi-final clash.

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Maria Sakkari staged an emphatic comeback against Sofia Kenin to secure a place in the semi-finals of the Abu Dhabi Women’s Open on Monday.

 

The ninth seed struggled early on against the Australian Open champion after dropping the opening set before saving a trio of break points at the start of the second. However, a clinical fightback from the Greek saw her win 10 consecutive games to stun Kenin 2-6, 6-2, 6-0, in what was a roller coaster match. It is only the fifth time in her career that Sakkari has defeated a top five player on the Tour.

“I think I was rushing a little bit too much in the beginning,” Sakkari said afterwards. “Once I saw that what I was doing was not working I tried a different way. I’m glad I found a way to turn the match around.”

Overwhelming Kenin with 23 winners compared to her tally of eight, Sakkari also converted six out of 13 break point opportunities and won 63% of her service points. In the final set alone, she dropped only two points behind her serve. The victory is a case of sweet revenge for the world No.22 who lost to Kenin in both of their previous meetings during 2018.

It is the second time in the tournament Sakkari has defeated a Grand Slam winner after also getting the better of Gabine Muguruza in the third round. She has also scored wins over rising star Coco Gauff and Russia’s Anastasia Potapova.

The reward for the 25-year-old is a last four clash with Aryna Sabalenka, who has won her two previous tournaments and is on a 13-match winning streak. Sabalenka endured a much tougher quarter-final encounter after battling to a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, win over Elena Rybakina. The two-hour battle saw the fourth seed hit 30 winners to 37 unforced errors as she broke the Rybakina once in each set.

“In the beginning of the second set I think I dropped my level a bit,” Sabalenka reflected. “But I think after 1-4 it was really good that I kept trying to come back and kept trying to find my game again, because it really helped me the rest of the match. It definitely helped me to win the third set.”

Heading into the clash, Sakkari will be the likely underdog. Not only is she ranked 12 places lower than Sabalenka in the rankings, her only win over the Belarusian occurred when they first met at the 2019 Cincinnati Open. Since then Sabalenka has beaten her three times in a row on a hard court.

We know each other really well. We practice a lot together,” Sakkari said. “She’s one of the toughest players to play out there—I’ve beaten her once, so I think I can do it again, but it’s going to be tough.
“She’s very powerful, and she’s super confident right now.”

Sakkari is chasing after her second WTA title this week in Abu Dhabi. Meanwhile, Sabalenka is targeting her ninth.

*Note – quotes obtained via tennis.com

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Matteo Berrettini reaches his second Masters 1000 semifinal

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Matteo Berrettini has reached the second Masters 1000 semifinal of his career with his 5-7 6-3 6-0 win over Cristian Garin at the Madrid Mutua Open at the Caja Magica. 

 

Berrettini fought back from 3-6 1-3 down by winning 11 consecutive games to take the win in the third set. 

Garin earned an immediate break in the first game, but Berrettini broke straight back to draw level to 1-1. Garin won seven consecutive points from 5-5 15-30 to claim the first set 7-5 with a break in the 11th game thanks to a backhand passing shot. 

Garin went up a 3-1 lead in the second set with a break in the third game. Berrettini broke back in the sixth game to draw level to 3-3 with a forehand winner on the break point. 

Berrettini earned his second break to take a 5-3 lead, when Garin made three unforced errors. The Italian player served out 6-3 at love with an ace.

Berrettini broke serve in the first game and saved two break-back points in the second game to hold serve for 2-0. Berrettini earned his double break in the third game, as Garin made two consecutive unforced errors at 40-40. Berrettini held serve at duece to race out to a 4-0 lead. Garin missed four game points in the fifth game before dropping serve to trail 0-5, when he committed a double fault and an unforced error. Berrettini served out the third set at love with his 14th ace after 2 hours and 6 minutes to secure his spot in his first Masters 1000 semifinal since Shanghai 2019.    

“I am really proud that I came back from not an easy place mentally after my injury. I really worked hard. There were days. There were days where I wasn’t really feeling into practice because I felt like kind of there was a lot of work to be done. Sometimes I was feeling kind of unlucky that I got injured again. It was just tough, but I came back stronger in Belgrade. For here, I proved to myself that I am strong inside”, said Berrettini. 

Berrettini will take on Casper Ruud in the semifinals. They will battle for a spot into their first Masters 1000 final. Ruud beat Berrettini in the quarter final in Rome last year. 

“I think he is a great player, especially on clay. He has been playing really good, really solid so far this season. We always had tough matches. Last year in Rome it was a really tough match. Still if I think about it, it hurts. I am really looking forward to get my revenge, not in a bad way, but just in a way that’s in a sport way”, said Berrettini. 

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Casper Ruud reaches his third consecutive clay Masters 1000 semifinal

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Casper Ruud beat Alexander Bublik 7-5 6-1 to reach his third career Masters 1000 semifinal at the Madrid Mutua Open after advancing to this stage in Rome in 2020 and Monte-Carlo in 2021. 

 

Ruud backed up his win in the third round against Stefanos Tsitsipas on Thursday with a straight set win over Bublik. Ruud won 8 of the final nine games and hit 19 winners to seal the win in 69 minutes. Ruud hit nine forehand winners to just two unforced forehand errors.

Ruud broke Bublik in the 11th game on his fourth set point to take the first set 7-5, as Bublik was serving at 5-6. The Norwegian player broke twice in the fourth and sixth games to claim the second set 6-1 in 69 minutes. 

The son of former Norwegian player Christian Ruud has not broken yet and faced his first break point this week against Bublik. 

Ruud becomes the seventh unseeded ATP player to advance to the semifinals in Madrid. He will face either Matteo Berrettini or Christian Garin in the semifinal. 

 “It’s a great feeling. It’s my third Masters 1000 semifinal and my third in a row on clay. I am just playing the tennis of my life for the moment and I am enjoying it. I have just had an unbelievable motivation to play the European clay swing and when we didn’t get to play it last year, I was very sad. I think I have just double motivation compared to last year”, said Ruud.

Ruud will move up to at least world number 16 in the ATP Ranking next week. 

“I did a lot of good work when we had the corona break last year. I trained really hard on the weekdays and took the weekends off. I think that worked well. When we started well, I felt good again. I think I am a much better player mentally, physically and playing-wise as well. I am hitting the ball and playing the heavy clay-court game that I like to play”, said Ruud. 

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Aryna Sabalenka beats Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova to set up a re-match of the Stuttgart final against Ashleigh Barty

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Aryna Sabalenka has reached her third final of the season with a 6-2 6-3 win over six-time Grand Slam quarter finalist Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova in the semifinal of the Madrid Mutua Open. 

 

Sabalenka earned her first break to take a 3-1 lead. She hi a series of forehands in the final game to close out the first set 6-2. 

Sabalenka raced out to a 4-0 lead with a double break. Pavlyuchenkova earned her first break points, but Sabalenka held serve for 5-0. Pavlyuchenkova pulled one break in the seventh game and held serve to claw her way back to 3-5. Sabalenka hit two backhands to earn her first match point and sealed the win with her fourth ace .  

Sabalenka has extended her win-loss record to 23-6 (including 9-1) this year. She has won the opening tournament of the season and lost the Stuttgart Porsche Grand Prix final to Ashleigh Barty. 

Barty and Sabalenka will meet again in the Madrid Mutua Open this week in the re-match of the Stuttgart final

The Belarusian player has not dropped a set this week. The Belarusian player won 73 % of her second service points and converted four of her break points against Pavlyuchenkova, who had won their only previous head-to-head match in Toronto in 2019. 

“I think my game has improved a lot on the clay court. For sure, it’s given me some confidence, but there are still so many things to work on. I am just really with my level here in Madrid. I think from the side it looks like everything is going my way. Some games I did not feel my serve. Some games something wasn’t working. It’s always part of the process, but I am really happy that from the side, it looks like everything is going my way”,said Sabalenka. 

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