Abu Dhabi | Jabeur sees off Raducanu, as Cirstea cruises past Sakkari 

Ons Jabeur was at her efficient best in seeing off Emma Raducanu at the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open on Wednesday, and, in the quarter-finals, will meet Beatriz Haddad Maia, who survived yet another marathon against Magda Linette, while Sorana Cirstea cruised past 3rd-seeded Maria Sakkari to play Daria Kasatkina in the Last 8, a straight sets winner over Ashlyn Krueger.

It was a tough match. Ons [Jabeur] is a difficult opponent so credit to her, she played really well and it's just a match that personally I need to forget about. She's a great opponent, she has amazing hand skills, makes life really hard for you on the court and especially with the balls which are really heavy. Her defensive skills are great and I think that's something I can improve on too. Emma Raducanu

Jabeur advanced to her first quarter-final match on tour this year with a 6-4 6-1 win over Raducanu, winning 82.8% of her first serve points, 24 out of 29, against 53.1%, 26 of 49, for Raducanu, the 2021 US Open champion.

In their first meeting, the No 2 seed from Tunisia needed an hour and 18 minutes to ease past the former British No 1 in a marquee 2nd-round late night showdown.

“My coach should be happy because I followed the tactics really well,” the 3-time Grand Slam finalist said afterwards. “I’m glad that I could see my tennis improving and getting there, so hopefully I’ll continue playing like this, and play even better.”

Jabeur is making her return to the Middle East swing after missing every event in the region last year due to a knee injury, and is playing in front of excited crowds.

“When I see those fans, it’s unbelievable,” Jabeur said. “It’s fun to play for me, I think I play really well, and hopefully we’ll see more and more crowds on Friday.”

The former World No 2, dubbed the Minister of Happiness, collected just her second match-win of 2024 by beating Raducanu on a packed Stadium Court.

Raducanu, who missed the last 8 months of 2023 after injuries and surgeries, has played 3 events so far in her 2024 comeback, and the former World No 10 from Great Britain has won one match and lost one match at each of those tournaments.

Jabeur used ferocious forehands, peppered with her signature drop-shots, to take command from the get-go against Raducanu, and rolled to an early 5-1 lead.

She held 2 set points at 5-2, and another pair of set points at 5-3, but Raducanu found sterling groundstrokes of her own to hold firm, and the Brit reeled off 3 games in a row to edge closer in the opener.

Jabeur slammed the window of opportunity shut, though, at 5-4, blasting a love hold and grabbing the one-set lead.

In the second, the Tunisian needed 4 break points before grinding out a 2-1 lead and then racing to victory without the loss of any more games, finishing the match with 35 winners to Raducanu’s 9.

Later, Raducanu spoke highly of Jabeur, but admitted it was a match she ‘needed to forget about’.

After kicking off her Abu Dhabi run with an impressive 6-4 6-1 win over Czech Marie Bouzkova, Raducanu was hoping to earn her first career Top 10 win against the 6th-ranked Jabeur, but was unable to come close to challenging the Tunisian.

“It was a tough match,” the 21-year old said. “Ons is a difficult opponent so credit to her, she played really well and it’s just a match that personally I need to forget about.

“She’s a great opponent, she has amazing hand skills, makes life really hard for you on the court and especially with the balls which are really heavy. Her defensive skills are great and I think that’s something I can improve on too.”

Early in the match, Raducanu had found herself down 2 breaks, but she made Jabeur work hard to seal the first set as the Brit saved a total of 4 set points over the 8th and 9th games before the Tunisian converted her 5th on her own serve in the 10th game.


Beatriz Haddad Maia won the longest match of 2024 against Magda Linette to make the Abu Dhabi quarters at Zayed Sports City

© Christopher Pike/Getty Images

Jabeur’s quarter-final opponent is 6th-seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia from Brazil, who outlasted Poland’s Magda Linette, 7-6(6) 6-7(1) 6-1, after 3 hours and 42 minutes, which is the longest match on tour this year.

The previous longest match of the year was Anastasia Potapova’s 7-5 6-7 (7) 6-4 win over Veronika Kudermetova in an all-Russian affair in Brisbane’s 3rd round, which took 3 hours and 26 minutes.

The Brazilian’s win eclipsed that, while it was also longer than all but one tour-level match of 2023, which also involved Haddad Maia – her 6-7 (3) 6-3 7-5 triumph over Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo in the Roland Garros 4th-round that lasted 3 hours and 51 minutes.

Plus, this occasion was the 11th time she has gone over 3 hours since the start of 2022, and her record in those matches now stands at 7-4.

“I think my team need to take care of their hearts,” Haddad Maia said with a laugh in her on-court interview “Sometimes in tennis, it’s not easy to manage the emotions. In the tiebreak, I was a little bit frustrated, and that caused another set.”

Fans on Stadium Court enjoyed the classic match, which, for 2 sets, was impossible to tell which way it would go.

Haddad Maia, who is also through to the quarter-finals of the doubles competition alongside compatriot Luisa Stefani, won the decisive tiebreak at the end of a pulsating first set, and the second followed a similar all-action theme, with Linette eventually edging it to force a decider.

The Pole appeared to be running on empty in the third, though, which should come as no surprise given her late-night exploits 24 hours earlier as she and her American partner Bernarda Pera defeated Ons Jabeur & Naomi Osaka in the doubles, 6-3 6-3.

Haddad Maia dominated the Round of 16 singles match, and ran out the winner, saving 9 of 11 break points and converting 4 of 13 break-point opportunities.


Sorana Cirstea dropped just 3 games against Maria Sakkari, the 3rd seed, at the WTA 500 in Abu Dhabi

© Francois Nel/Getty Images

Meanwhile, 33-year old Sorana Cirstea, currently ranked 26, has beaten a lot of top players in her day, and the Romanian was on top of her game from start to finish on Wednesday, eliminating Greece’s Sakkari, 6-2 6-1, to score the 20th Top 10 win of her career, taking 76 minutes to do so.

She now has 5 Top 10 wins to her credit in the last year alone, putting together a winning record of 5-4 against the elite group over the last 12 months, a run that started at Indian Wells last March.

Sakkari wasn’t just her 20th Top 10 win, either, it was also the 50th Top 20 win of her career.

Cirstea’s ranking has been as high as No 21 and her run here this week is sure to see her rise to this again.


Daria Kasatkina got past Ashlyn Krueger to reach her 3rd quarter-final of the year in Abu Dhabi

© Christopher Pike/Getty Images

Her Last 8 opponent is the No 7 seed, Daria Kasatkina from Russia, who produced an impressive display to overcome Ashlyn Krueger in straight sets earlier in the day.

Kasatkina dispatched the 19-year-old American, 6-3 7-5, in an hour and 32 minutes to make her 3rd quarter-final of 2024.

A French Open semi-finalist in 2022, Kasatkina looked confident throughout the contest, comfortably winning the first set, beforebeing pushed all the way by Krueger in the second.

Kasatkina, though, was not to be denied, and finished the match strongly.

“It was a tough match today in difficult conditions, very windy, sometimes sunny, sometimes not, so it’s hard to play against a good, tough competitor like Ashlyn,” she said afterwards. “I’m really happy with the way I played and managed the match.

“At times she was playing very well and not making any mistakes, and at times she would give me a bit more, so my role was to stay the same on every point and I think I did that.

“The conditions are tough and the balls are becoming very heavy quite quickly, so I’m very happy with the way it went.”


Naomi Osaka (R) & Ons Jabeur could not get past Magda Linette & Bernarda Pera in their opening doubles match on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi

© Francois Nel/Getty Images

While the biggest talking point from the doubles competition was undoubtedly the elimination of Jabeur & Osaka, there was no shortage of entertainment in Wednesday’s matches, which began with the American partnership of Sofia Kenin & Bethanie Mattek-Sands defeating Miyu Kato and Aldila Sutjiadi, from Japan and Indonesia respectively, 6-3 6-4, to move into the Last 8.

Britain’s Heather Watson, who faces Cristina Bucșa from Spain in the singles on Thursday, and her Czech partner Linda Noskova also got through to the quarters after upsetting top seeds, American Nicole Melichar-Martinez & Ellen Perez from Australia, 6-3, 7-6(3), while Japan’s Shuko Aoyama & Aleksandra Krunic from Serbia overcame the Chinese pair of Wu Fang-Hsien & Zhu Lin, 6-2 1-6 [10-6] to advance.


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