Muguruza beats Sabalenka at Qatar Open, Svitolina wins

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DOHA, Qatar — Garbine Muguruza outlasted third-seeded Aryna Sabalenka in a close second-round match at the Qatar Open, while top-seeded Elina Svitolina eased into the quarterfinals.

Muguruza won 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3 after she served for the match at 6-5 in the second set before Sabalenka broke her serve and won the following tiebreaker.

“I just fight and stay there and keep thinking that I’m going to win,” Muguruza said. “If I have an opponent that is playing great, I have to play better.”

The 16th-ranked Spanish player will face Maria Sakkari of Greece in the quarterfinals. Sakkari won 6-2, 6-2 against Madison Keys in what was the American’s second match since returning to the tour after missing the Australian Open with the coronavirus.

Svitolina cruised through her match against Misaki Doi 6-1, 6-2. Svitolina was playing for the first time since a fourth-round loss at the Australian Open on Feb. 15, while Doi was on her fifth match in as many days after coming through qualifying. Svitolina’s quarterfinal opponent is Victoria Azarenka, who beat Laura Siegemund 6-4, 6-2.

Karolina Pliskova, seeded second, won 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 against Ons Jabeur to move to a 5-3 record in 2021 after a subdued start to the year including a third-round defeat to fellow Czech Karolina Muchova at the Australian Open. Next up for Pliskova is Australian Open quarterfinalist Jessica Pegula of the United States, who eliminated former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 7-5.

Fourth-seeded Petra Kvitova prevailed 6-1, 6-3 in her second-round match with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova after coming back from 3-1 down in the second set. Kvitova next plays Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit and will aim to win back-to-back matches for the first time in 2021.

Fresh off defeating Australian Open finalist Jennifer Brady in the first round, Kontaveit followed up with a 6-1, 6-4 win over three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber.

Linette keeps getting better; into Australian Open semis

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Two days after advancing to her first Grand Slam tournament quarterfinal, unseeded Magda Linette went one better and is into the Australian Open semifinals.

The 30-year-old Linette beat Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 7-5, adding the former No. 1 to the list of top players she has beaten at Melbourne Park during this tournament.

Linette, who had lost seven of nine previous matches against Pliskova, had defeated Anett Kontaveit, Ekaterina Alexandrova and WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia in successive rounds.

A player from Poland was favored to reach the latter stages of the tournament, but it was top-seeded Iga Swiatek that everyone would have expected – and not Linette.

“It’s so emotional I can’t really believe it,” Linette said. “I tried to stay composed and took my chances when I could.”

Linette will play No. 5 Aryna Sabalenka, who beat unseeded Donna Vekic 6-3, 6-2 in a later quarterfinal. The women’s semifinals are scheduled for Thursday night.

Vekic, who had 13 double faults against Sabalenka, had a succinct appraisal of her serve: “I mean, it was all over the place. But I think mostly in the net.”

The other women’s semifinalists were determined on Tuesday. Two-time former Australian champion Victoria Azarenka will play Wimbledon titleholder Elena Rybakina for a chance to play in Saturday night’s final. Rybakina beat Swiatek in the fourth round.

Later Wednesday, the remaining men’s semifinalists will be determined. Unseeded Americans Ben Shelton and Tommy Paul play before nine-time champion Novak Djokovic takes on Andrey Rublev.

Djokovic will be looking to qualify for his 44th Grand Slam semifinal and a win in that match on Friday would advance him on Sunday night to his 33rd major singles final.

The other men’s semifinal on Friday will see third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas play Karen Khachanov.

Rybakina rules in Australian Open quarterfinal vs. Ostapenko

Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports
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MELBOURNE, Australia – Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina advanced to the Australian Open semifinals with a 6-2, 6-4 win over former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

The match on Rod Laver Arena featured a rare rain delay of about 20 minutes while the roof was closed. Rybakina led 3-1 and was holding a break point before the delay. On return, Ostapenko saved the first break point, but Rybakina broke on her next opportunity to go up 4-1 and won the first set 6-2.

In the second set, Ostapenko was up a break but Rybakina leveled with a break of her own. It came on her first break point when Ostapenko had been unable to convert four in the previous game.

Rybakina, who beat top-seeded Iga Swiatek in the fourth round, set up match points with aces, both of which were saved by Ostapenko. But she clinched the match with another ace, her 11th of the match and a tournament-leading 35 overall.

“I was nervous in the last game, but I managed my emotions and played very well.” Rybakina said. “The conditions were different after the roof was closed. But it can happen here, you never know, on the morning one weather and later it changes.”

Rybakina will play the winner of the night quarterfinal between American Jessica Pegula, at No. 3 the highest women’s seed remaining, and two-time champion Victoria Azarenka.

In men’s quarterfinals, 22-year-old American Sebastian Korda played the next match at Rod Laver Arena against No. 18-seeded Karen Khachanov. In a night quarterfinal, third-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas plays Jiri Lehecka. The winners of those matches will play each other in the semifinals on Friday.