Adelaide | Rybakina felled by Alexandrova while Pegula and Ostapenko advance to semi-finals

Top seed Elena Rybakina met her match on Thursday and was sent packing by Ekaterina Alexandrova, while Jessica Pegula came through her 2nd 3-setter in a row to get past Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Jelena Ostapenko saw off Marta Kostyuk, and Daria Kasatkina advanced to the semi-finals without striking a ball after Laura Siegemund pulled out of the WTA 500 Adelaide International.

It was a tough match, of course, but finally I won in two sets, I managed it. I feel like I was striking the ball well today. Even in the first set, when it was 5-2 to 5-5, I still was playing my game, and then at the end I found it. Just happy to be through. Jelena Ostapenko

Alexandrova ended Rybakina’s 6-match winning streak, 6-3 6-3, to notch up her 3rd career Top 3 victory.

The Russian, who saved 4 match points en route to beating Poland’s Magda Linette, 3-6 7-6(8) 7-5, in the 1st-round, improved to 3-1 overall against Rybakina, having previously defeated the Kazakh in straight sets in the 2020 Shenzhen final and Western & Southern Open 1st-round, while her only loss in the series also came in 2020, on the clay of Rome.

Both sets saw Alexandrova leap out to significant leads with confident big hitting, then quell a threatened come-back from Rybakina at the tail-end of each.

In the first set, the World No 21 held a point for 5-0, only for Rybakina to come up with a series of superb backhands to cut the lead down to 4-3.

In the second, Alexandrova managed to reach 5-0, but some fine volleying enabled the World No 3 to respond with 3 games in a row.

Serving for the match a second time, Alexandrova faced triple break point, but found clean winners on 4 of the next 5 points to halt the momentum shift, and seal upset win.

In total, Alexandrova struck 28 winners to 15 unforced errors, while Rybakina found 22 winners, including 9 aces, but was undone by her 25 miscues.


Jelena Ostapenko won her quarter-final match against Marta Kostyuk on Day 4 in Adelaide

© Mark Brake/Getty Images

Alexandrova will next face Ostapenko, the 6th seed from Latvia, who booked a spot in her first semi-final of the year with a 7-5 6-3 quarter-final win over Kostyuk.

The former World No 5  is ranked 12 these days, and the 2017 French Open champion is rediscovering her top form ahead of next week’s Australian Open, where she will begin her campaign against local hope Kimberley Birrell.

Ostapenko, who also made the quarters in Brisbane last week, edged an intense opening set and raised her level again in the next after dropping serve, breaking to go up 3-1, from where it was relatively plain-sailing for the fiery Latvian after an hour and 32 minutes.

“It was a tough match, of course, but finally I won in two sets, I managed it,” Ostapenko said afterwards on court, after firing 30 winners to 17 unforced errors. “I feel like I was striking the ball well today.

“Even in the first set, when it was 5-2 to 5-5, I still was playing my game, and then at the end I found it. Just happy to be through.”

Ostapenko and Alexandrova first played each other in the quarter-finals of the 2015 ITF W50 event in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, with the Latvian winning, 6-3 6-3, but it is the Russian who leads the overall had-to-head 5-3, although two of her wins came via retirement, and Ostapenko edged their last encounter 7-6(3) 6-7(6) 7-5 in the 2023 San Diego 1st-round.

The pair have only played twice on outdoor hard courts before, both times in Seoul, and Alexandrova won them in straight sets, in the 2018 2nd-round and the 2022 final.


Jessica Pegula needed 3 sets to get past qualifier Anastasia Pavlyuchenko on Thursday

© Sarah Reed/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Kasatkina moved into the semi-finals after her quarter-final opponent, Siegemund from Germany, withdrew ahead of their match.

The World No 15 is now one win away from repeating her finalist appearance at the second of last year’s two Adelaide events.

In the last quarter of the day, No 2 seed Pegula had to come from a set down to advance for the second time this week, with the American needing 2 hours and 26 minutes to quell Pavlyuchenkova, 6-7(1) 7-5 6-4, from a set and a break down, and surviving a barrage of 45 winners from the qualifier.

In the first set, Pegula was unable to get her own ground-stroked going, and 5 of her 7 winners were aces, but were outweighed by 10 unforced errors, particularly in the tiebreak that Pavlyuchenkova dominated.

After an exchange of breaks early in the second, Pavlyuchenkova seemed on the verge of victory when she held a break point at 5-5, but Pegula found another fine serve to save it, then took advantage of the 2021 Roland Garros finalist lapsing into error to snatch the set, and move up 3-1 in the decider.

Pavlyuchenkova fought back to level at 3-3, but Pegula came up with her best shots down the home stretch, with a drop-shot winner out of nowhere, and a lethal forehand winner on the run.

She got herself over the line after the Russian netted a sitter of a forehand, her 42nd error of the match, down match point.

Pegula will next face Kasatkina for the third time, having won both of their previous encounters in straight sets.




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