David McCracken

Sports News Desk Editor at NBC Sports

Sabalenka tops Bencic for first quarterfinal spot at Australian Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia — No. 5-seeded Aryna Sabalenka defeated Belinda Bencic 7-5, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open for the first time. Bencic double-faulted to drop the first set, which put Sabalenka in control from that point.

No. 4-seeded Caroline Garcia faced Magda Linette for the final place in the women’s quarterfinals. Garcia reached the semifinals of the U.S. Open last season but has never reached the quarterfinals in Australia.

Top-seeded Iga Swiatek and No. 2 Ons Jabeur were both been eliminated, leaving No. 3 Jessica Pegula as the highest ranked women through to the final eight.

“I’m super happy with the win today,” Sabalenka said. “She (Bencic) is an unbelievable player. She played so good. I’m really happy with the level today.”

Sabalenka said she had worked hard on controlling her emotions during matches.

“It takes me a little while to understand that negative emotions are not going to help me on court,” she said. “You just have to stay strong and believe no matter what.”

Novak Djokovic faced Alex de Minaur Monday for a place in the men’s quarterfinals. Djokovic is aiming for this 10th title at the Australian Open and his 22nd Grand Slam title. The Grand Slam mark would tie him with Rafael Nadal for the most by any man.

Linette upsets Garcia to reach first Grand Slam quarterfinal

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Magda Linette came from two breaks down in the first set en route to beating No. 4 Caroline Garcia 7-6 (3), 6-4 to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

She will face Karolina Pliskova, who defeated Zhang Shuai 6-0, 6-4 in another fourth-round match.

Linette was lost for words in the on-court interview after the match.

“I don’t really believe it,” she said. “I can’t believe it, really. I don’t know what happened. I’m speechless really. I don’t know what to say.”

Fifth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka defeated Belinda Bencic 7-5, 6-2 on Monday to reach the quarterfinals for the first time. Bencic double-faulted to drop the first set, which put Sabalenka in control from that point.

“I’m super happy with the win today,” Sabalenka said. “She (Bencic) is an unbelievable player. She played so good. I’m really happy with the level today.”

Sabalenka faces Donna Vekic, who defeated Linda Fruhvirtova 6-2, 1-6, 6-3.

Two other quarterfinal matchups were already set, with Elena Rybakina facing Jelena Ostapenko, and Jessica Pegula playing Victoria Azarkena.

Top-seeded Iga Swiatek and No. 2 Ons Jabeur have been eliminated, leaving No. 3 Pegula as the highest ranked women through to the final eight.

Sabalenka said she had worked hard on controlling her emotions during matches.

“It takes me a little while to understand that negative emotions are not going to help me on court,” she said. “You just have to stay strong and believe no matter what.”

Sablenka also said her fitness has improved.

“We did a lot of work in the preseason and I’m super happy that everything is working right now,” she said.

Novak Djokovic faced Alex de Minaur Monday for a place in the men’s quarterfinals. Djokovic is aiming for this 10th title at the Australian Open and his 22nd Grand Slam title. The Grand Slam mark would tie him with Rafael Nadal for the most by any man.

Lauren Davis wins 2nd WTA title six years after her 1st

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HOBART, Australia — American Lauren Davis claimed a second WTA title six years after her first, beating Italian Elisabetta Cocciaretto 7-6 (0), 6-2 in the Hobart International final.

The 29-year-old Davis upset fourth-seeded and 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens in the first round and didn’t drop a set all week. It was Davis’ first WTA title since winning the Auckland event in 2017.

“We put in a lot of hard work over the off season, and . . . over the past several years. To see the fruition of our hard work paying off is a really good feeling,” Davis said.

Both players were unable to convert several break-point chances in a tense first set before the 84th-ranked Davis ran through the tiebreaker to love. She kept the momentum going in the second set, breaking in the second game.

Cocciaretto, ranked 67th, was playing her first WTA final after a strong run featuring wins over third-seeded Alize Cornet in the first round and former Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin in the semifinals.

The 21-year-old Italian, who played the match with strapping on her left thigh but didn’t appear hampered, faces Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the first round of the Australian Open which begins Monday.

Davis becomes the fourth qualifier in the past 11 years to win the trophy in Hobart, following Mona Barthel (2012), Garbine Muguruza (2014) and Elise Mertens (2017).

Davis will play 54th-ranked Danka Kovinic in the first round of the Australian Open.

“(The win) gives me a ton of confidence,” Davis said. “I did a really good job of staying disciplined throughout the tournament. Going into next week I honestly feel pretty fresh, I don’t feel too tired at all.”