Halep rallies to set up Dubai semifinal against Brady

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Top-seeded Simona Halep came from a set down for the second day in a row to beat Aryna Sabalenka 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 Thursday and reach the semifinals at the Dubai Championships.

Halep had to save a match point against Ons Jabeur on Wednesday and again found herself in trouble against the hard-hitting Sabalenka. But she broke for a 3-1 lead in both the second and third sets to earn her third win in four career meetings with the Belarusian.

“It’s always tough to play against her because she’s very strong and hits the ball really, really hard,” Halep said. “I think I played quicker in the second set and third set. She didn’t have time to stay and to hit the ball. So I think that was the key of the match.”

Halep will next face Amerian qualifier Jennifer Brady, who upset former No. 1 Garbine Muguruza 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4 to reach her third career WTA semifinal.

Brady wasted a 5-2 lead in the first set, but won the last four games of the second and broke again in the final game of the decider.

In the other semifinal, Elena Rybakina will play Petra Martic.

Rybakina beat second-seeded Karolina Pliskova 7-6 (1), 6-3, while the eighth-seeded Martic reached her first semifinal in five months by ousting Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (4), 6-1.

Elena Rybakina beat Katerina Siniakova 6-3, 6-3 and plays Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals. Pliskova beat Kristina Mladenovic 6-1 6-2.

In the last quarterfinal match-up, Jennifer Brady will play Muguruza. Brady beat Marketa Vondrousova 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 and Muguruza defeated Veronika Kudermetova 7-5 4-6 6-4.

Alcaraz loses to Goffin in 1st match as No. 1

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Carlos Alcaraz’s first match as the No. 1-ranked player ended with a straight-set loss to David Goffin at the Astana Open.

The 19-year-old Spaniard lost 7-5, 6-3 in his first tour match since winning the U.S. Open and capturing the No. 1 ranking.

“David was playing really, really well. To come back to competition is never easy,” Alcaraz said. “It’s really tough for me, for my confidence.”

Alcaraz came from 5-2 down to level the first set at 5-5, only to be broken again by his Belgian opponent.

“When you play against the World No. 1 on a big stage, big crowd, the fire inside gives you so much power to play your best tennis because you don’t have any choice,” Goffin said. “You have to fight and give your best and that was the case today.”

Second-seeded Daniil Medvedev and No. 3-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas both avoided similar upsets. Medvedev beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain 6-3, 6-1 and Tsitsipas ousted Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3. 6-4.

Kasatkina knocks out Raducanu at Agel Open

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — Fifth-seeded Daria Kasatkina defeated 2021 U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu 7-5, 6-4 to advance to the second round of the Agel Open.

Kasatkina was playing her first match since losing in the first round of the U.S. Open and will next face Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Sixth-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland rallied to eliminate former top-five player Eugenie Bouchard of Canada 6-7 (7), 6-1, while Aliaksandra Sasnovich upset eighth-seeded Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-2.

American qualifiers Alycia Parks and Catherine McNally both advanced. Parks upset Czech Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 7-6 (3) and McNally eased past Anna Blinkova 6-1, 6-2 at the indoor hardcourt event in the Czech eastern city of Ostrava.