It’s Sabalenka v Pliskova and Giorgi v Pegula in Montréal semis

Aryna Sabalenka blasted past compatriot Victoria Azarenka at the Omnium Banque Nationale présenté par Rogers in an all-Belarusian quarter-final that advanced the top seed to a semi-final against Karolina Pliskova, while Jessica Pegula upset Ons Jabeur to set a meeting with Camila Giorgi, who took out Coco Gauff on Friday.

I would say in Wimbledon I had a lot of opportunities on her serve, I just didn’t use it. I would say I put a lot of pressure on myself. I wasn’t free there. I would say that tomorrow I have to, first of all, serve well. Secondly, I just have to use all these opportunities on her serve. Aryna Sabalenka

Sabalenka won her 3rd of 4 meetings with Azarenka in 82 minutes, 6-2 6-4, and dashed the hopes of the 32-year old breaking back into the top 10 next week.

She began her romp through the first set by breaking for 2-0 on her 5th break point of a marathon game and raced to 5-1 before Azarenka made a late charge to grab a break back and Sabalenka notched up the following game to close out the opener.

A drop-shot miscue by Sabalenka handed Azarenka a break in the first game of the second, which she maintained through 4-3 when power and passes helped her break back to get level at 4-4, and the No 1 seed then reeled off the final 4 games of the match to clinch victory.

Using her big serve, Sabalenka added 7 aces to her season’s WTA-leading total of 265.

“I’m really happy with this, it was a tough match,” Sabalenka said. “She played well.

“The second set was a little tricky. I’m really happy that I came back [from 2-4 down] and won it. I’m pleased with the level today.”

Sabalenka was playing her 8th quarter-final of 2021, putting her in the joint lead in the category with World No 1 Ashleigh Barty.

“There were a few points that really made a big difference,” Azarenka said. “I had opportunities in the first set, but she was playing much stronger in the important moments. I didn’t really quite take my chances.

“Compared to other players, she’s probably one of the hardest hitting.”

The 23-year-old World No 3 has been working on staying focused throughout a match.

“I knew that even if I’m down with the score, I still can come back in the match,” she said. “These kind of thoughts help me be a bit more free on the court.”

Sabalenka takes on Pliskova, the No 4 seed, after the Czech defeated Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo, 6-4 6-0.

The pair met in the semi-finals at Wimbledon last month, when Pliskova won, 5-7 6-4 6-4, and the Czech is not expecting many long rallies when they play in the semi-final.

“We both like to go for winners,” she said after rolling past Sorribes Tormo.

Karolina Pliskova dispatched Sara Sorribes Tormo to set up a semi-final meeting with Aryna Sabalenka

© Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Pliskova went down an early break in the opening set against the Spaniard, but turned the match around to cruise to victory in an hour 20 minutes, taking a 2-0 lead in her head-to-head with the World No 48.

Pliskova was powerful on serve and overwhelming on return, as she collected 85 percent of points on the Sorribes Tormo second delivery, which helped her convert 6 of her 7 break points on the way to the win.

Bolstered by impeccable defence and a challenging slice, Sorribes Tormo grasped the early lead by breaking Pliskova for 3-1, but that started a run of 4 straight breaks which ended with the Czech back on serve at 4-3 and breaking to love for 5-4 before serving out the first set.

“I think I started not so well today,” Pliskova said. “[I was’ maybe tired in the beginning because I had lot of matches in the last couple days actually, and the conditions are not so easy.

“I think I really improved my game, especially at the end of the first set, and of course the second set I think I did a good job, good points there, much better serving than in the first set. Luckily I won in two sets today.”

Pliskova won the first 13 points of the second, leading 3-0 before Sorribes Tormo pulled her into a topsy-turvy game that the Czech won after 5 deuces to lead 4-0, from where she eased home, finishing the match by winning 10 games in a row.

Looking forward to another battle with Sabalenka, Pliskova said: “We played in Wimbledon not many weeks ago, so I know what to expect.

“I know what I have to do to beat her, or at least to be close. So let’s see if I can do that.”

As for Sabalenka, she knows what she has to do better if she is to make the final.

“I would say in Wimbledon I had a lot of opportunities on her serve, I just didn’t use it.” Sabalenka said. “I would say I put a lot of pressure on myself.

“I wasn’t free there. I would say that tomorrow I have to, first of all, serve well. Secondly, I just have to use all these opportunities on her serve.”

Camila Giorgi (L) got past Coco Gauff in the quarter-finals in Montreal

© Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The second semi-final is a surprising encounter between Giorgi from Italy and American Pegula, who both upset seed to reach their slots.

After the Italian lost at home to the 17-year old in Parma, Giorgi enacted revenge on Gauff, the 15th seeded American, who saved 2 match points before falling, 6-4 7-6(2).

Ranked 71, Giorgi added Gauff to her win list this week, which includes 12th-seeded Czech Petra Kvitova and the No 16 seed, Elise Mertens from Belgium.

“I’m playing very consistently this season,” Giorgi said. “I’ve had a lot of tournaments without interruptions or injury.

“I’ve played through the season without stopping, I think that’s the key.”

Giorgi had Gauff on the back foot in the first few games, holding 4 unconverted break points on the American’s serve at 1-1, then breaking 2 games later to lead 3-2, after the American coughed up the game with a double-fault.

Gauff might have been at a disadvantage because two of her opponents were injured, Anastasia Potapova and Johanna Konta, and she was only on the match court for an hour 28 minutes before playing Giorgi.

The American was never able to fight her way back into the opening frame as Giorgi lost only 4 points on her serve in the first set.

The second was a different story as half of the 12 games went against serve.

Giorgi lost her first match point on her serve at 5-4, 40-30, while the second came and went 2 games later, this one at 6-5, 40-30.

On a sticky night in Montréal, the two entered a tiebreak when, serving at 2-1, Gauff double-faulted which prompted a slew of errors, with a misfired backhand, netted forehand, shanked forehand return, wide backhand offering Giorgi a 6-2 lead.

The end came quickly as Giorgi’s attempted pass extracted a netted half-volley from Gauff.

“I think it was a great match,” Giorgi said. “I think I was very consistent. It was a great level, I think.”

The match was certainly one of the most well-composed efforts of Giorgi’s career, after the Italian consulted with Craig O’Shannessy, the veteran strategist who has been helping several Italian players.

Jessica Pegula upset Ons Jabeur to reach the semi-finals at the Canadian Open on Friday

© Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

On Saturday Giorgi will meet Pegula after the Australian Open quarter-finalist rallied past Jabeur, the 13th seed, 1-6 7-6(4) 6-0, in 90 minutes, with 4 breaks of the Tunisian’s serve.

The 27-year-old Pegula, the daughter of Buffalo Bills and Sabres owners Kim and Terry Pegula, won her lone WTA Tour title in 2019, beating Giorgi in the Citi Open final in Washington.

Pegula had already beaten Jabeur once in Canada, having knocked out the Tunisian in their first meeting en route to her maiden WTA final at 2018 Quebec City.

Jabeur served for the match in the second set, but never got to match point as Pegula steered back from that deficit to claim victory, the tiebreak set bookended by 2 brief sets in a match took only 88 minutes in total.

“I knew if I could hold onto my serve, I’d get my chances,” Pegula told the media. “Obviously she made some errors there, at the end. I got the momentum and started playing better. Just kind of ran away with that third.”

Pegula has won all 4 of her matches this week in 3 sets, coming back from a set down in three of them.

She and Jabeur were evenly matched, with only one point won separating the pair, 75 for Jabeur to Pegula’s 74.

“Honestly, I haven’t really done anything that different,” said Pegula, regarding her 3-set wins, including two in a row late at night. “I’ve done like a little extra stuff in the gym just to help with my back and my hips and stuff like that.

“Honestly it’s just kind of will. When there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Jabeur zipped through the first set, never letting Pegula hold a break point and the Tunisian held the momentum in the second, finally earning the first break of that set at 5-4.

Serving for the match, though, Jabeur faltered, dropping serve for the first time.

Pegula tightened up her shots in the tiebreak as more errors began to creep into the Jabeur game, and the American got to set point at 6-4 with a forehand crosscourt winner.

Another solid return by Pegula on the next point forced another miscue from Jabeur, and the American suddenly eked out the second set.

From there, it was all Pegula, as she fired her sturdy shots with more margin, while the error count by Jabeur mounted.

The decider took only 23 minutes as Pegula scooped up the bagel, completing her comeback and moving into her second semi-final of the season.

Looking ahead to Giorgi, Pegula said: “She is always tough. She just goes for it, doesn’t really back down. I don’t mind playing someone like that.

“I think my game can match up well against her, but I think I’m going to have to start coming out a little quicker in these matches.”

Luisa Stefani (L) & Gabriela Dabrowski upset top seeds Elise Mertens & Aryna Sabalenka to reach the doubles semi-finals of the Canadian Open

© Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

No Canadian singles players made it through to the tournament’s quarter-finals, but Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski and doubles partner Luisa Stefani of Brazil secured a spot in the semi-finals when they downed Sabalenka & Mertens, 6-2 6-2, on Friday.

Dabrowski & Stefani, the No 5 seeds, will take on Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova & Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan on Saturday in front of fans, the first time Dabrowski will see a crowd at this year’s tournament.

“The one amazing thing about Canada is that we are so multicultural and so we have so many fans from all over the world,” Dabrowski said, noting the Tunisian fans who came out to support Jabeur on Thursday night. “I think that’s a beautiful thing that Canada has to offer.”



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