Aryna Sabalenka is into the Roland Garros quarter-finals after defeating Sloane Stephens 7-6(5) 6-4.
The Australian Open is into the last eight for the first time in Paris after a close contest with the former finalist.
Stephens produced a first set comeback but ultimately fell short of the world number two.
Sabalenka will now face Elina Svitolina for a place in the semi-finals on Tuesday.
It was a dominant start from Sabalenka who found her power from the baseline early.
A frequent amount of unforced errors from Stephens didn’t help but ultimately it was an aggressive start from Sabalenka.
The second seed produced title-winning form as she converted two of her three break points, winning the opening five games with minimal fuss.
However the former US Open champion was never going to back down without a fight and Stephens produced a comfortable service game in the sixth game to inspire some confidence.
That game was a platform to build on for Stephens, who hit freely through the ball while Sabalenka was feeling the pressure of closing out the set.
Stephens converted her third break point of the game to earn one of the breaks back in the seventh game.
There was more pressure and resistance from Sabalenka in the eight game but Stephens produced effective counter-punching tennis to save set point and seal a third consecutive game.
There was a consistency about Stephens’ game now especially when defending and that drew out errors from Sabalenka.
Another break of serve was sealed as this opening set was now back on serve.
Both players continued to produce simple mistakes on big points while also playing with freedom and consistency when the pressure wasn’t on.
In the end it was the world number 30 who was more clutch on the bigger points as she saved three more set points to hold for 5-5.
Neither player backed down from the challenge of turning defence into attack as the opening set went to a tiebreak.
Stephens had a mini-break lead on two separate occasions at 4-2 and 5-4 after Sabalenka failed to land big backhands into the court.
However the former finalist produced erratic errors on big points and Sabalenka grinded away to edge the tiebreak 7-5.
First blood went to Sabalenka not only in terms of winning the opening set but also securing the opening break in the set.
There was a more reassured Stephens on the other side of the net, who started the second set much better than she did in the first.
That didn’t matter in the fifth game as Sabalenka’s consistent power was too much for the American as she broke in the fifth game for a 3-2 lead.
Seemingly cruising to victory, Sabalenka had a lapse of concentration in the eighth game which lead to some quality returns from Stephens, who broke back for 4-4.
Stephens was 40-0 up, firing away on serve but Sabalenka’s determination to get the match won in straights proved too strong.
The second seed produced consistently good returning and immediately broke back to have the chance to serve out the match.
Sabalenka secured the win for a hold to love which was followed by a massive roar as she booked a place in the last eight.
After the match Sabalenka described the match as ‘crazy’ and praised the atmosphere, “It was a crazy match. Great fight. She played unbelievable tennis and coming back from that score is something unbelievable,” Sabalenka was quoted as the BBC as saying.
“I was just a little bit lucky in the first set in the end to get that set. Thank you everyone for the support and the atmosphere. I didn’t expect that much people watching our match and it was amazing atmosphere. Thank you so much. It was really amazing playing in front you.”
Sabalenka will now play Elina Svitolina for a place in the semi-finals.
Asian Games Champion Qinwen Zheng Reveals Shock Departure Of Coach Fissette
China’s Qinwen Zheng says she feels ‘hurt’ by the decision of her former coach to end their collaboration in order to work with another player.
The US Open quarter-finalist had been working with Belgium’s Wim Fissette in recent weeks following the departure of Pere Riba who is now the coach of Coco Gauff. Fissette has a wealth of experience in women’s tennis after working with the likes of Kim Clijsters and Naomi Osaka. However, Zheng says she is now looking for a new mentor.
“I understand his decision, but my family and I feel hurt. Right now I don’t want to talk about this person (Fissette),’ journalist Bendou Zhang quoted her as saying.
Fissette is yet to comment on his departure. He had previously coached former world No.1 Osaka between 2019-2022 and during this period she won two of her four Grand Slam titles. The American-based Japanese player is on maternity leave from the sport and gave birth to her first child in July.
20-year-old Zheng is currently ranked 23rd in the world and won her maiden WTA title in Palermo earlier this year. She is the youngest player from her country to have reached the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam in the Open Era following her run at Flushing Medows. This year she has beaten top 10 players Ons Jabeur and Daria Kasatkina.
Zheng’s latest career milestone is winning gold at the Asian Games on Friday. in the final, she defeated Zhu Lin 6-2, 6-4, in the blistering Hangzhou heat.
“The feeling was incredible,” Zheng said. “I’m really happy about that. That was not an easy match today and also yesterday (in semifinal against Alex Eala). All of them are good fighters.”
It is not clear who Zheng will be working with during the Asian swing.
Daria Kasatkina Criticises Decision To Not Use Roof At Sweltering Pan Pacific Open
Daria Kasatkina has taken a swipe at organizers at the Toray Pan Pacific Open for not using the roof to cover their premier court on Thursday due to the heat.
The Russian played her second round match against Despina Papamichail in temperatures around 30 degrees with the humidity making it feel even warmer. Kasatkina battled to a 6-4, 6-4, win after spending more than two hours on the court. She dropped serve four times in the match but managed to break Papamichail seven times en route to victory.
Speaking on the court following his latest tour win, the world No.13 admitted that she struggled in the conditions and implied that she believed the roof should have been closed to shield the players from the sun. Tokyo, which is where the tournament is staged, has experienced a record-breaking number of ‘extremely hot’ days this year with their autumn season being warmer than usual. Something that some warn could be a more regular occurrence due to climate change.
“We cannot do much about it. We are using the ice towels and some supplements to keep you hydrated. By at the end, you cannot fight with something you cannot control,” Kasatkina commented on the conditions during her on-court interview.
“I think in these kinds of conditions, if you have a roof, better maybe to close it. If you have these opportunities, better to use it than to make players almost die on the field.” She added.
Kasatkina is through to her seventh Tour quarter-final of the season. Awaiting her in the next round will be second seed Jessica Pegula who beat Spain’s Cristina Bucșa 6-1, 6-2, in her second round match on Wednesday. It will be only the second Tour meeting between the two players and their first on a hard court.
Elsewhere in Tokyo, another player to reach the last eight in France’s Caroline Garcia who beat Anhelina Kahlinina 6-4, 6-3. Meanwhile, Anastasia Pavlychenkova defeated Czech Republic’s Linda Noskova 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.
Barbora Krejcikova Does The Double In San Jose
After what has been a challenging past few weeks on the Tour, Barbora Krejcikova has returned to the winner’s circle by claiming both the singles and doubles titles at the San Diego Open.
The world No.13 battled to a marathon 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, win over Sofia Kenin in what was a clash of the former Grand Slam champions. Krejcikova was pushed to her limits throughout the two-and-a-half-hour clash with there being no break in the decider until the final game. It is the second singles title the Czech has won on the WTA Tour this season after Dubai and her seventh overall.
“Normally I wouldn’t be here,” said Krejcikova, who received a wild card to play in the tournament “I really want to thank them (the tournament organisers). It was very special. I really enjoyed my stay here.”
Krejcikova’s run to the trophy has also seen her score wins over Beatriz Haddad Maia and Danielle Collins earlier in the week. She is the first player from her country to win the tournament.
Following on from that triumph, the 27-year-old then clinched the doubles title alongside compatriot Katerina Siniakova. The duo beat Collins and Coco Vandeweghe 6-1, 6-4.
Krejcikova came into San Jose on a four-match losing streak which started at Wimbledon where she was forced to withdraw from her secound round clash due to a left leg injury.
“I came here with not really good statistics after my injury, I didn’t actually win any matches,” she said. “So I just came here and I pretty much was hoping and believing that I could get the first win and go from there. It’s pretty special to be sitting here having won [the title].”
It is only the second time in Krejcikova’s career that she has won both the singles and doubles titles at the same event. The first time she did so was at the 2021 French Open where her partner in the doubles was also Siniakova.
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