Charleston | Bencic shocks Badosa as Jabeur cruises into semi-finals

Belinda Bencic came from a set down to upset 2nd-seeded Paula Badosa and reach the semi-finals of the Credit One Charleston Open on Friday, where she will meet Ekaterina Alexandrova, while Ons Jabeur, the 4th seed, beat Anhelina Kalinina to set up her encounter in the last 4 with Amanda Anisimova.

A great match, I really enjoyed being there today. I was trying to be aggressive and take the few shots before her, and playing the game that I like to play, slicing and mixing up the shots. Pretty happy with my performance, and hope I can keep playing like that. I'm just enjoying the fact that I feel so free on the court, the fact that I can slide anywhere, the fact that I can cover the whole court. I enjoy that lot. Ons Jabeur

Bencic, the No 10 seed from Switzerland, rallied to beat Spain’s Badosa, 2-6 7-6(2) 6-4, taking 2 hours and 47 minutes to prevail.

“It was a big fight,” Bencic said afterwards. “I’m just going to try to recover, but I’m happy with the way I played, with the way I fought, and I’m happy to get another match here.”

Ranked 21, the 2020 Olympic champion was a set and 2-4 down in the second set before she found her rhythm and a way to fight her way back into contention after forcing the tiebreak.

“I felt very uncomfortable the first set and half,” Bencic admitted later. “I was just trying to hang on to my service games with the wind.

“I felt like I needed to get my game together, and make it harder for her. I really had nothing to lose.”

Badosa swept through the first set without facing a break point as Bencic got less than half of her first serves into play, and the Spaniard won two-thirds of those points on return.

The Swiss, however, came back from an early break down in the second to reach the breaker, where she turned the match around, striking a winner into the corner to give herself a commanding 6-2 lead, and a forehand winner clipping the sideline to level the contest.

In the decider, Bencic saw an early break slip away, but the 10th seed used deft short balls to garner 2 break points in the next game, then broke for 4-3 after an untimely Badosa double-fault, and prevailed from there.

Bencic has reached the Charleston semi-finals for the first time since her tournament debut in 2014 as a 17-year-old qualifier ranked outside the Top 100.

“When I lost that semi-final, I was so heartbroken,” said Bencic. “I thought that’s going to be my only chance, this was it and this was, maybe, my only semi-final.

“My team, and other people, they were telling me, ‘No, this is just the start. You will play more semi-finals and more tournaments’, so I feel, like, this completely kicked off my career.”

Ekaterina Alexandrova reached the semi-finals in Charleston for the first time with her win over Magda Linette on Friday

© Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Bencic will face Alexandrova on Saturday, who powered past Poland’s Magda Linette, 6-0 6-2, in just 62 minutes in their quarter-final encounter.

Linette, ranked 64, had beaten Alexandrova in their only prior meeting, in the Seoul semi-finals in 2019, but the World No 54 swept to victory this time round, winning 86 percent of her first-service points to reach her first semi-final of the season.

Alexandrova broke 3 times to take the first set bagel, then went up a 3-0 lead with 2 further breaks before Linette pulled one back in the 4th game for 1-3.

Converting her 3rd break point in the 5th game, Alexandrova saved 2 break points to serve out the win at deuce in the 8th game.

Alexandrova, who has lost just one set in 4 matches, knew that Linette had endured a pair of 3-setters on Thursday as the event got back on schedule after weather delays earlier in the week.

“I think she finished like super late, and for her it would be extremely tough to play today,” Alexandrova said.

Alexandrova won the first set in 24 minutes, and kept up the pressure to reach her first-ever WTA clay-court semi-final.

Bencic and Alexandrova have split their 4 previous meetings, with the Swiss needing a 3rd-set tiebreak to win their most recent encounter, on the grass courts of Berlin last season.

“It’s always tough to play against [Bencic] because she can play just unbelievable,” Alexandrova said, looking ahead to the semi-finals. “I remember, like, every time I played against her, it was always tough… So I think, tomorrow, it’s going to be the same.”

Ons Jabeur cruised past Anhelina Kalinina into the last 4 in Charleston

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Tunisia’s Jabeur, who is now the highest seed left standing at No 4, beat Ukraine’s Kalinina, 6-3 6-2, with little trouble, to advance into the semis for the second straight year.

“A great match, I really enjoyed being there today,” Jabeur said afterwards. “I was trying to be aggressive and take the few shots before her, and playing the game that I like to play, slicing and mixing up the shots.

“Pretty happy with my performance, and hope I can keep playing like that.”

She has not lost a set in 3 matches here, winning all of them by 6-3 6-2 scores, and has been on court for a total of 3 hours, 17 minutes.

“I’m just enjoying the fact that I feel so free on the court, the fact that I can slide anywhere, the fact that I can cover the whole court,” she said. “I enjoy that lot.”

The World No 10 needed just over an hour to beat 42nd-ranked Kalinina in their first meeting, extending a tremendous patch of success on the green clay in Charleston of late.

After staving off a break point in the preceding game, Jabeur broke Kalinina for a crucial 5-3 lead in the opening frame, then held to take the one-set lead, winning 77 percent of her first-service points in the opener, while the Ukrainian won less than half of points behind her first serve.

Jabeur amped up her forehand power in the second, claiming an early break for 2-1, while a stunning backhand return gave her a 5-2 lead, and the Tunisian simply cruised home from there.

“I think [Kalinina] served good, but I returned well today,” said Jabeur. “She had a good run also in Miami, so I think she’s a great player… She deserves a much better ranking, for sure.”

Amanda Anisimova dispatched Coco Vandeweghe in the Charleston quarter-finals

© Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Next, Jabeur will face the 20-year-old Anisimova for the first time, after the 15th seed defeated US countrywoman CoCo Vandeweghe, 6-1 6-2.

“It was super fun playing tonight,” Anisimova said, after the match. “I love night matches, so I was really enjoying it out there today.”

The World No 47 took just over an hour to glide through the all-American clash and reach the semi-finals in Charleston for the first time in her career.

Anisimova, who knocked out top seed Aryna Sabalenka in the previous round, continued her run with aplomb by dominating Vandeweghe, a former Top 10 player, who entered the main draw as a lucky loser.

Never facing a break point in the first set, Anisimova wrapped it up with an ace and, although Vandeweghe held her only break points of the evening in the 2nd game of the second, when she had 5 chances to level the set at 1-1, the 15th seed powered her way out of danger, gritting through the 11-minute game and holding for 2-0.

Anisimova then eased herself through the rest of the contest, finishing the match with a 70 percent success rate returning Vandeweghe’s second serve.

“[Jabeur is] an amazing player,” Anisimova said, looking ahead to the semi-finals. “I think it’s really fun to watch her.

“She has a lot of variety in her game, so it’s definitely going to be tricky tomorrow. But I’ll just try and stay focused and be expecting some long rallies.”



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