Aryna Sabalenka and Karolina Pliskova’s hopes of starting a winning run at the Credit One Charleston Open in South Carolina were dashed on Thursday, when the No 1 and 3 seeds were toppled by Amanda Anisimova and Ekaterina Alexandrova respectively but, elsewhere, 2nd-seeded Paul Badosa and Ons Jabeur, seeded 4, made it through into the quarter-finals.
It's a pretty good result, like, in the quarter-final, and especially against a top seed. It's a big confidence boost. Amanda Anisimova
The weather has been bad all week and the schedule has had to play catch-up, with Jabeur completing 2 matches on Day 4 to advance, firstly against American wild-card Emma Navarro, 6-3 6-3, and then beating Irina-Camila Begu from Romanian by the same score.
Jabeur’s match with Navarro was suspended on Wednesday because of the severe weather when the Tunisian was leading 6-3, 5-2, and on their return on Thursday, the No 4 seed won 4 straight points to close things out, frustrated that they could not finish match the previous day.
“But, you know, it is what it is,” she said after eliminating Begu. “I’m glad that I finished quick in the morning. And tonight was really tricky.”
Jabeur said Begu found some rhythm in the middle of the match, adding: “But I’m glad that I really won my serve at the end.”
The Tunisian was not the only player who had to navigate two singles matches in one day, with Poland’s Magda Linette pulling off an upset of Leylah Fernadez, the 7th seed from Canada, 3-6 6-3 6-4, before outlasting Estonian Kaia Kanepi, 6-3 4-6 6-2.
In all, Linette played 55 games in 4 hours and 38 minutes of winning tennis to advance.
Badosa, the 2nd seed from Spain, dropped her first set before fighting off American Claire Liu for a 3-6 7-6(8) 6-1 win to move into the quarters, where she meets the No 10 seed Belinda Bencic from Switzerland, the Olympic gold medalist last summer, who defeated 9th-seeded Madison Keys of the USA, 6-4 6-4.
Bencic, who overcame a nearly 2-hour rain delay after winning the opening set against Keys, held off the American, who was the last remaining past champion in the field.
The first set was very nearly taken by Keys, who led 4-3 and had 3 break points for 5-3, but Bencic charged back to hold for 4-4, then won the next 2 games to swipe the lead.
Keys was up a break in the second set too, at 4-2, but Bencic immediately pulled back on serve with a crunching return winner, and the Swiss then moved ahead for good after another break for a 5-4 lead, before she forced an error from the American with a forehand to convert her first match point in the final game.
It was a bad start for Badosa against the 21-year-old Liu while, when the No 2 seed went up 5-3 in the second set, Liu won 3 of the last 4 games to set up the tiebreak, in which the American was just 2 points away from winning the match 4 times, but the Spaniard turned away each challenge.
Badosa converted her 4th set point off a backhand winner to close out the 72 minute second set, and gained full control after that in the decider to advance, avoiding the upset.
It will be a rematch on the green clay of Charleston, Badosa having scored her first career Top 20 win over Bencic here last year, in their first meeting, and the Spaniard has beaten the Swiss two more times since then.
The biggest upset of the day, though, came from Anisimova, who came from behind to take out top-seeded Sabalenka, 3-6 6-4 6-3.
Sabalenka had won her first match in nearly 6 weeks here on Wednesday, and she took the opening set without mishap but, after the 20-year old Anisimova, who is ranked 47 in the world, took a lengthy off-court break, she began to miscue just as the American found her rhythm.
Two straight double-faults put Anisimova up 5-3, and the American served out the set with ease to level proceedings.
Anisimova broke Sabalenka twice for a 4-0 lead in the decider and, although the top seed narrowed the gap to 5-4, she closed out the match with her 6th ace and improved her record against the World No 5 to 3-0.
“It’s a pretty good result, like, in the quarter-final, and especially against a top seed,” Anisimova said. “It’s a big confidence boost.”
The vagaries of the Sabalenka serve proved crucial, as they have so often done in 2022, with the World No 5 landing 73% of her first serve and winning 79% of those points in the first set, firing 7 aces and dropping her serve only once.
Anisimova, however, found more of a groove in the second, coming through a key hold for 3-2 with superb net play and a finely struck forehand winner.
Sabalenka, who had only committed 3 double-faults in the opener, coughed up 2 in a row to lose her serve and go down 5-3 and, even after Anisimova failed to serve the set out, she offered a 6th double to go down set point in the subsequent game, and the American grasped her opportunity.
Anisimova leapt out to a 4-0 lead in the decider as Sabalenka’s double-fault tally reached 10 and, despite the late charge to regain one of the breaks, it wasn’t enough, and Anisimova served out the win the second time, landing her 6th ace in the process.