There are no seeds left at the Viking International Eastbourne after Italian qualifier Camila Giorgi eliminated top seed Aryna Sabalenka in the quarter-finals on Thursday, 7-6(5) 0-6 6-4, after an impressive performance that lasted 2 hours 18 minutes at Devonshire Park.
I get very excited, but when it starts I get very sad because it’s very short, the grass season. I wish it could be longer, because I love to play on grass. Jelena Ostapenko
Continuing her stunning form at the Eastbourne, Giorgi, who was a quarter-finalist at Wimbledon in 2018, set up a semi-final meeting Anett Kontaveit after the Estonian beat Swiss Viktorija Golubic, 2-6 7-6(2) 7-5, in another thrilling encounter.
Sabalenka had won their only previous meeting and looked on course for a comeback victory against Giorgi when she reeled off the second set with a flurry of winners to level the match.
The Belarusian then earned the first break of serve in the deciding set, but Giorgi’s game re-ignited to claim victory.
“It was a great match and very good level,” she said. “At the end I think it was more mental than physical.”
The big-hitting battle saw several wild scoreboard fluctuations, but it was the Italian who came from a break down to take both the first and third sets, recovering from a 25-minute whitewash in between.
Sabalenka took a 4-2 lead in the opening set with a break in the first game, but Giorgi broke back in the 8th game to draw level to 4-4 after the Belarusian double-faulted.
She saved the first 5 set points she faced but Giorgi converted a chance to close out the set on her serve.
After Sabalenka broke 3 times to take a bagel win in the second, the third set featured 7 breaks of serve, with Giorgi converting her 3rd break point in the first game.
Sabalenka won 3 consecutive games with 2 breaks to open up a 3-1 lead but again Giorgi bounced back by breaking twice to take a 4-3 lead.
Although Sabalenka broke back to draw level to 4-4, Giorgi sealed the third set 6-4 with a further break in the 9th game.
The result moves Giorgi into her first semi-final since Palermo 2020, and first at 500 level since Tokyo 2018.
Giorgi knocked out 5th seed Karolina Pliskova in the opening round, also in three sets, meaning it is the first time in her career that she has had two wins over top-10 players at the same tournament.
The Italian will next face Anett Kontaveit, who came back from the brink of defeat against qualifier Golubic for the second time in a month.
The Estonian won in 3 tight sets despite Golubic serving for the match at 6-5 in the second.
In the other semi-final, Jelena Ostapenko from Latvia will take on Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina.
Ostapenko recovered from a slow start to beat Russia’s Daria Kasatkina, 1-6 7-5 6-2, while French Open quarter-finalist Rybakina defeated Anastasija Sevastova, a lucky loser, also from Latvia, 2-6 7-6(7) 7-6(5).
“The main thing, probably I was playing more aggressive today and tried to put as much pressure as possible on her,” Ostapenko said in her post-match press conference. “In the second set I was fighting very hard to win it.
“I think in the third set I already found my game and played much better.”
With her 1-hour 46-minute victory, 2017 Roland Garros champion Ostapenko finds herself into her first tour-level semi-final since her title-winning run in Luxembourg at the very tail end of 2019.
The World No 43 has now improved her previous best Eastbourne result, which was a quarter-final showing in 2018, which she followed up with a trip to the Wimbledon semi-finals the very next week.
“I get very excited, but when it starts I get very sad because it’s very short, the grass season,” said Ostapenko, who also won the junior Wimbledon singles title in 2014. “I wish it could be longer, because I love to play on grass.”
Each broke serve 7 times in the affair, but the aggressive play by Ostapenko, a former Top 5 player, prevailed in the end, with 38 winners leading her to victory.
Kasatkina has still won 6 of her 8 matches on grass this season, including a trip to her first grass-court singles final just last week in Birmingham.
Kasatkina broke Ostapenko four times in the opening frame to take the one-set lead, but the Latvian powered her way into the match during the highly competitive second set.
Ostapenko was up a break three separate times in that stanza, and a hold at 6-5 at last gave her the set, in which she out-winnered Kasatkina by 19 to seven.
She took the lead for good by breaking Kasatkina with a fierce forehand for a 3-2 lead in the decider, winning backhand pass punctuating another service break for a 5-2 lead, and she eased to victory from there, wrapping up the win on her 2nd match point with a rally forehand winner.
“I think when I find my game, like in the third set today, and when I play aggressive and I play well, I think it suits my game very well, the grass court,” Ostapenko said.
Rybakina of Kazakhstan took two-and-a-half hours to quash the challenge from Sevastova.
“It was not easy at all,” Rybakina said, after her win. “She played also well, we were fighting every point, so it was really difficult.”
The World No 21 saved 2 match points in the second set tiebreak before gritting out a down-to-the-wire victory and moving into her first semi-final of the season.
After Sevastova charged through the opening set, Rybakina had an early chance to level the match in the second, holding a set point at 5-4 before misfiring on a return.
Sevastova then attempted to serve out the match at 6-5, but Rybakina fired a ferocious forehand winner to break serve and move the second set into a tiebreak.
In the breaker, Rybakina saw a 3-0 lead dissipate as Sevastova drew errors from the Kazakh to reach double match point at 6-4, but Rybakina’s power hitting helped her escape from peril, and she won 5 of the last 6 points, culminating with a strong, unreturned serve.
“I was just focusing point by point, and it worked out,” she said.
Both players were steely in the final set through 5-5, with zero break points on offer up to that juncture.
Rybakina then got her chance to serve for the match after a break for 6-5, but backhand miscues allowed Sevastova back into the match as a decisive final set tiebreak settled affairs.
Rybakina again built a 3-0 lead in the breaker, but Sevastova once more steered her way back in, reaching 5-5 when the Kazakh slammed down an ace to garner her first match point at 6-5, and converted with a pinpoint forehand winner down the line.