Jabeur, Bencic to square off for Charleston Open title

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CHARLESTON, S.C. – No. 4 seed Ons Jabeur continued her run of success the past two years at the Charleston Open, overcoming Amanda Anisimova 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 to reach the championship.

Jabeur of Tunisia will face Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, a 6-4, 6-3 winner of Ekaterina Alexandrova.

For Jabeur, it was just more good play on the green clay surface at Charleston. She reached the semifinals of this event last year. A week later in a second tournament at the facility, Jabeur got a step further before losing in the final.

Now, Jabeur has another chance of gaining her first win here and her second on the WTA tour.

“I was ready for this,” Jabeur said of Anisimova’s forceful style. “Kind of slow a little bit at the beginning, but I’m glad I didn’t let it slip away from me.”

Jabeur had breezed through her first three matches without dropping a set. But Anisimova, the 20-year-old seeded 15th, pounced quickly on Jabeur’s mistakes to grab the first set. After Jabeur roared back to take the second set, Anisimova opened a 3-1 lead in the decider.

Once more, Jabeur dug in to win five of the last six games and move forward. Jabeur and Bencic have only played once, the Swiss woman winning last year on the red clay of Madrid when Jabeur retired in the second set.

“I think it’s going to be an interesting match,” Jabeur said. “She plays kind of the same style as (Anisimova), you know hits hard. So I’ve got to say I got ready from the three sets today and hopefully, I can start good tomorrow.”

In Charleston, Bencic, ran off to a 4-1 lead, but Alexandrova won the next three games to tie things. That’s when Bencic called on her steady serve and solid groundstrokes to close out the set, breaking Alexandrova’s serve to grab the lead before holding serve to end it.

Bencic won the final three games of the second to close out the match. She closed it with her fifth ace to reach her 14th WTA final. Bencic will look for her sixth career tour title.

Bencic said she started well and was surprised that Alexandrova tied it.

“I didn’t think I did anything wrong and it was 4-4,” Bencic said. “I mean, it was easier for me to accept that more than if I would do something wrong. So I was just like, `OK, I’m just going to keep going.”‘

It hasn’t been an easy path to the finals for Bencic at the year’s opening clay-court event. She was two points away from elimination by China’s Xiyu Wang in her first match here before winning a second-set tiebreak and rallying for a three-set victory.

Bencic lost the first set to No. 2 Paula Badosa of Spain in the quarterfinals and again used a second-set tiebreak win on the way to her first victory over Badosa in four tries.

Bencic feels comfortable and confident heading to the finals, planning on a good dinner and a good rest. “I think it’s not going to be worse than before the Olympic final,” she said. “That was a sleepless night.”

Alycia Parks reaches 1st WTA quarterfinal in Ostrava

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — American qualifier Alycia Parks is having quite the breakthrough tournament in Ostrava.

The 21-year-old Parks earned her first win against a top-10 ranked opponent by beating fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 at the Agel Open on Thursday to reach her first WTA Tour quarterfinal.

The 144th-ranked Parks ousted former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in the opening round – her first win against a top-20 opponent – and showed off her power by hitting 59 winners against Sakkari, compared to just nine for her opponent.

“I came out here not expecting anything, just playing my game, and it got me through the match,” Parks said.

Parks will next face former French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who advanced via walkover when Belinda Bencic withdrew with a left foot injury.

Caty McNally, another American qualifier who is playing doubles with Parks in Ostrava, also reached the last eight by beating wild-card entry Karolina Muchova 6-1, 3-6, 6-1. McNally is also into her first WTA quarterfinal and will face top-ranked Iga Swiatek, who advanced Wednesday.

Djokovic beats Van de Zandschulp to reach Astana quarters

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Add Botic van de Zandschulp to the long list of players to have been schooled by Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic eased past Van de Zandschulp 6-3, 6-1 on Thursday in his first career meeting with the 27-year-old Dutchman to reach the quarterfinals of the Astana Open.

Van de Zandschulp earned one break point in each set but couldn’t seriously threaten Djokovic, who is looking for a second straight indoor hardcourt title after winning in Tel Aviv last week.

“(In the) second set I think I started to read his serve better and just started swinging through the court more,” Djokovic said. “Botic is a quality tennis player. When he has time, he can hurt you, so I tried to take away that time from him and I’m very pleased with the way I played, particularly in the second.”

Djokovic will next face Karen Khachanov, who rallied to beat Marin Cilic 2-6, 6-3, 6-3. If the 21-time Grand Slam champion gets past that one, he could come up against fellow former No. 1 Daniil Medvedev. The second-seeded Russian beat Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 6-3, 6-2 to move one match away from a potential rematch of last year’s U.S. Open final, when Medvedev beat Djokovic to deny his attempt at a calendar-year Grand Slam.

Medvedev will first have to beat Roberto Bautista Agut, who advanced Wednesday.