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St Petersburg | Bertens prevails as Bencic falls

St Petersburg | Bertens prevails as Bencic falls

Defending champion Kiki Bertens beat Russian qualifier Anastasia Potapova, 6-4 7-6(3), on Friday to move into the semi-finals of the St. Petersburg Ladies’ Trophy in Russia, while top seed Belinda Bencic breezed through the first set but lost the next two as Maria Sakkari went on to win, 2-6 6-4 6-3.


I’m really proud of the way I’m fighting and the way I can turn these matches around. Maria Sakkari

The Swiss broke Sakkari twice as she raced into a 5-1 lead in the opener before serving it out, but the Greek rallied and, after losing her serve to go 2-1 down in the second set, broke Bencic twice to level the match, and then repeated the trick in the decider to close out the victory.

Sakkari, ranked No 21 in the world, scored her 3rd win against a top-five player in her career.

“I’m really proud of the way I’m fighting and the way I can turn these matches around,” the Greek said.

Despite the loss, Bencic will reach a career-high World No 4 ranking on Monday as she moves on to Dubai to defend her title there next week.

She also has a firm eye on the Olympics in Tokyo where she hopes to play mixed doubles with Roger Federer, but that depends on his form.

“If he decides to compete in the single and mixed doubles, I would be very happy if we could play together,” she has said.

The two played together at the now discontinued Hopman Cup, winning back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019 in Perth, Western Australia.

Federer, who missed the 2016 Games in Rio, confirmed last year that he will be making a 5th appearance at the Olympics.

Bencic has revealed that she was nervous when she first met Federer: “When I didn’t know him so well, I was very nervous when I spoke to him,” she said. “I met him at the Hopman Cup, where he helped me a lot.

“Even now, he always has an open ear for me. He is especially at my side with questions about advanced training and tournament preparation.

“Not only is he a champion himself, he also wants to help the next generation.”

Maria Sakkari upset top seed Belinda Bencic in St Petersburg

© Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Meanwhile Bertens, the World No 8, fought back from a 5-2 second-set deficit and saved 3 set points in her 1-hour, 53-minute quarter-final against the talented 18-year-old Potapova from Russia, who challenged the Dutchwoman throughout, forcing 17 break points.

Bertens fought back, saving all but 3 of them and converted 4 of her 6 break opportunities.

In the semifinal, she faces another Russian, Ekaterina Alexandrova, who is on a roll having won 16 of her last 17 matches.

On Friday she completed the semi-final line-up with a walkover victory over 3rd seed Petra Kvitova, who pulled out through illness.

Kvitova said the unspecified illness bothered her on Thursday during her 3-set win over Alison van Uytvanck.

“I wasn’t feeling well during my match yesterday and hoped I would feel better today, but unfortunately, that’s not the case,” Kvitova said.

The first semi-final on Saturday pits 8th-seeded Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan against 6-seeded Sakkari.

Rybakina saved 2 match points in the second set, and recovered to get the better over teenage French qualifier, Oceane Dodin, 6-7(5) 7-5 6-2.

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