Two Canadians advanced into the quarter-finals at the Chennai Open on Wednesday, with Rebecca Marino, the 7th seed, and Eugenie Bouchard scoring straight wins over Poland’s Katarzyna Kawa and home hope Karman Thandi in a clash between two wild-cards.
I played against Katie Swan once, a few years ago, but I don’t really remember. And Gasanova, I never played against her. I’m going to watch their match tomorrow and I’m going to talk to my coach and [see] how to play. Nao Hibino
Marino reached the Last 8 with a 7-5 6-3 win over Kawa on Wednesday evening, and will face the winner of the match between Pole Magda Linette, the No 3 seed, and Russian Oksana Selekhmeteva, who play on Thursday.
Winning 64.6 per cent of service points, Marino converted 4 of her 7 break points to win the match in an hour 36 minutes.
The 31-year-old is coming off a run to the 3rd-round at the US Open that moved her WTA ranking to No 90, her highest since she was ranked 83rd on 13 February, 2012.
Bouchard, a former World No 5 who is on the come-back trail after missing 17 months with a shoulder surgery, won her second match in a row, 6-2 7-6(2).
After handily winning the first set, Bouchard trailed 5-2 in the second before fighting her way to a tiebreak, which she won in dominant fashion, taking the match after 2 hours and 13 minutes in front of a boisterous crowd rooting for the hometown Thandi.
The Canadian is finally back to playing regular tennis again and played a solid match, remaining composed despite trailing in the second set, after breaking her opponent twice in the opener, although she did face 3 break points, which she saved comfortably enough.
The second featured much better play from Thandi, who used a dip in Bouchard’s focus to her advantage, taking an early break and looking in a strong position to send the contest into a decider, but the Canadian held on, saving 2 set points when down 3-5 and levelling at 5-5.
Thandi saved 2 break points as the match went into the breaker, where Bouchard, once again, proved too strong for the Indian, having converted 3 of her 8 break points and defending 3 of the 4 she faced to win in 2 hours 13 minutes.
The 28-year old came off just her second main-draw win on the WTA Tour since reaching the final of a WTA 250 event in Guadalajara, Mexico, on 13 March, 2021.
Bouchard returned to action at last month’s Odlum Brown VanOpen after a 17-month layoff recovering from right shoulder surgery.
She will face the winner of a match between 4th seed Tatjana Maria from Germany and Argentina’s Nadia Podoroska in the singles quarter-finals but, before that, she will team with Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer in a doubles quarter-final against Selekhmeteva and Russian partner Anastasia Gasanova on Thursday.
In the first match of the evening on SDAT Tennis Stadium’s Centre Court, 17-year-old Czech Linda Fruhvirtova came from 3-0 down in the first set to upset 5th-seeded Rebecca Peterson from Sweden, 6-4 6-2, in an hour and 25 minutes to also advance to the quarters.
Fruhvirtova won 26 of 29 points on her first serve, and converted 4 of 10 break chances in the encounter.
Japanese qualifier Nao Hibino also made her way into the Last 8 with a 6-2 6-3 win over 6th seed Qiang Wang from China.
“It was tough. From the match score, it does not look tough,” she told reporters. “I got a huge advantage in the first and second set, but she came back strongly, and put me under pressure a lot.
“I’m proud of myself that I could refocus and fight back when she played good.”
Hibino, who reached a career-high ranking of 43 in but is currently No 145, also had to keep herself calm as Pat Cash, 1987 Wimbledon champion and Wang’s coach, was fuming for most of the match as he watched his charge making one error after another.
“The towel box was front of him. When I took the towel, I tried not to show anything on my face and try not to panic and be affected,” Hibino added.
This was Hibino’s second win in 3 weeks over Wang, ranked 101, after beating her in the 2nd-round of qualifying at the US Open.
“I tried to play the same [way] as the last time,” Hibino said. “We both want to hit more forehand than backhand.
“I think I played a little bit better than her with my forehand. And I hit a lot of slice that made her come to the net.”
Coached by Eiji Takeuchi, a Davis Cupper for Japan during the 1980s, Hibino next faces either Russian Anastasia Gasanova or Britain’s Katie Swan.
The 23-year-old Gasanova upset top-seeded American Alison Riske-Amritraj in the opening round on Tuesday.
“I played against Katie Swan once, a few years ago, but I don’t really remember,” Hibino said. “And Gasanova, I never played against her.
“I’m going to watch their match tomorrow and I’m going to talk to my coach and [see] how to play.”
Yet to drop a set, the 27-year-old Japanese is the only qualifier left in the main draw.
Swan lost her doubles with Greek partner Despina Papamichail, lost their opening match to top seeds Gabriela Dabrowski & Luisa Stefani, 6-4 6-1.
The Canadian-Brazilian pair saved all 4 break points they faced, while breaking 3 times on 8 chances in a match that took and hour and 5 minutes to complete.
The Chennai Open, a WTA 250 event, is back on the calendar, taking place at the Nungambakkam tennis stadium, which had faced years of neglect, but was turned around in a matter of weeks to make the tournament possible.
“Without the State Government’s insistence and support, honestly, it would have been practically impossible to do it,” TNTA President Vijay Amritraj said.
The WTA 250 tournament is expected to create a surge in interest in tennis in the city and State, Amritraj said, adding that aspiring players can learn invaluable lessons from professional athletes who are pushing themselves on their way to the top.
“The idea of having these events is to make sure that you are able to see how these girls train, what they do for warm up and afterwards, their eating and practice habits,” he said. “But, over and above that, it’s a question of how you set yourself up towards getting there.
“They have been here a few days before the tournament, and all through the day, they were practising.
“In my welcome letter to them, I said, try not to play too much between 11 am and 2 pm. But they were all out there playing.
“We want young girls to come and watch these matches… to energise themselves. And then the commitment has to come from the athlete.
“We should not always consider giving wild-cards to Indian players; they should be good enough to play on their own,” he added.