Stuttgart | Swiatek downs Raducanu as Rybakina, Kostyuk and Vondrousova advance to Last 4

Emma Raducanu pushed Iga Swiatek hard but fell in straight sets at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix on Friday night, while Marketa Vondrousova upset Aryna Sabalenka’s hopes of winning a car this year, Marta Kostyuk downed Coco Gauff and Elena Rybakina overcame Jasmine Paolini, all in 3 sets, to make the semi-finals.

She started playing at the beginning pretty loose, like she had nothing to lose, and I totally get that. Sometimes it is like that. But I knew I was, kind of, questioning if she's going to be able to keep the same intensity throughout the whole match. It wasn't about service games or return games. I was just the waiting for my chances to break back, and I was sure that I'm going to get them. Iga Swiatek

Swiatek, the World No 1, showed her class against a strong challenge from Raducanu, winning 7-6(2) 6-3 in 2 hours and 3 minutes, testimony of the threat the Briton posed to the two-times defending champion.

“It was a pretty intense match, so I’m happy that I was able to keep the intensity, even though we played a tough games for two hours,” Swiatek said. “It wasn’t easy, I had a lot of break points that I couldn’t convert.”

Asked if she thought Raducanu was on the path back to challenging for titles, Swiatek said: “I hope she’ll be able to do it, because for sure, she has a game for that, but it’s not easy.”

Raducanu has produced some of her best form since winning the 2021 US Open this past week, winning 2 Billie Jean King Cup matches and then 2 more her to reach the quarter-finals, but it was not quite enough to beat top-seeded Swiatek, who remains on course to win the title for a 3rd year running.

The Brit broke Swiatek’s serve at the start, from 40-0 down, giving due notice that she was ready to dig in and compete in a 7-deuce opening service game, but the 22-year old Pole broke back immediately and eventually took the first set into a tiebreak.

It was just the second time in 21 career sets played at the tournament that Swiatek was pushed to a tiebreak, thanks to the inspired effort from the former US Open champion.

Down but not out, Emma Raducanu more than held her own against World No 1 Iga Swiatek but ultimately fell in the quarter-finals in Stuttgart, Germany.

© Alex Grimm/Getty Images

The first set on its own lasted 70 minutes, and the first 3 games took more than 20 of those combined.

After the first two games, only one more went to deuce, but Swiatek raised her level in the breaker, where she won the first 4 points, and 5 of the first 6.

Swiatek carried her momentum into the second, breaking the Brit to love in the first game to build a lead that she held to the finish line.

“She started playing at the beginning pretty loose, like she had nothing to lose, and I totally get that,” Swiatek said afterwards. “Sometimes it is like that. But I knew I was, kind of, questioning if she’s going to be able to keep the same intensity throughout the whole match.

“It wasn’t about service games or return games. I was just the waiting for my chances to break back, and I was sure that I’m going to get them.”

Despite the loss, Raducanu takes away a positive clay-court season so far, having marked the first time she has won 4 matches in a row since her life-changing US Open win out of qualifying in 2021.

The former World No 10 came here ranked 303, and can look forward to rising up the rankings as she has no more points to defend this year after missing the rest of the 2023 season following this tournament last year due to surgery on both wrists and her ankle.

Raducanu, who is the lowest-ranked player to reach a WTA 500 quarter-final since Rybakina, who was a wild-card ranked 450 at the 2018 St Petersburg Ladies’ Trophy, has already improved her ranking to around 221 in the live listings.

The Brit had posed a tremendous challenge to the World No 1 with her impressive offensive and defensive skills in addition to some formidable serving, and while Swiatek now leads their head-to-head 3-0, their latest Stuttgart meeting was more closely contested than the previous two.

In her post-match press conference, Swiatek was asked if she looked forward to playing Raducanu in the future, and whether she considered theirs to be a good match-up.

“I mean, for fans, for sure, it’s nice,” she said. “Well, I mean, we have plenty of players to play against on WTA Tour, so I wouldn’t say Emma is the one specific that I’m looking forward to play with, because we have tough match-ups [on tour] every week. Doesn’t really matter for me.”

Elena Rybakina needed 3 sets to get past Jasmine Paolini and set up a Last 4 meeting with Iga Swiatek

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Swiatek next plays Rybakina on Saturday for a place in the final, who beat Paolini, 6-3 5-7 6-3, in their quarter-final after recovering from a break down in the deciding set, and she has now won 24 of her 27 matches this season.

Rybakina had to fend off a strong challenge from the Italian, and said it was normal to play a match stretched out to full sets

“It’s just part of the work,” said the World No 4, who has a slight edge of 3-2 in her head-to-head record against the Polish No 1. “It takes time to feel better and better on clay.

“It’s always, of course, tough to play against Iga, and I feel like we pushing each other till the limits.

“I remember when, this year, when we played exhibition, and you’re just coming out of pre-season, and it’s very tough. She started really intense, and I’m, like, I need to keep it up.

“I think it’s nice to play against her. Of course I want to win, but I need to be also realistic. She’s very good player on clay. She’s maybe a little bit more favourite now, but again, if I play well, I serve well, I move good, I have all the chances. So I’m just happy to play against her.”

They have met 5 times before, with Rybakina leading 3-2 and winning 3 out of 4 since the start of last year, although the Pole did beat the Kazakh in the Doha final this season to end a 3-match losing skid to her rival.

Marketa Vondrousova outplayed Aryna Sabalenka in the Last 8 and meets Marta Kostyuk for a place in the final

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The second semi-final pitches a surprise package of Marta Kostyuk against Marketa Vondrousova, both of whom narrowly pulled off major upsets on Friday.

Out of the last 4 Grand Slam champions in action on Friday, the most recent two were sent home, as Australian Open winner Aryna Sabalenka fell to reigning Wimbledon title-holder Vondrousova, 3-6 6-3 7-5, while Kostyuk outlasted the US Open champion, Coco Gauff, 3-6 6-4 7-6(5).

It was Sabalenka’s first appearance in a quarter-final since winning the Australian Open in January, but Vondrousova, a tricky Czech lefty, came from a set down, and then 4-5 down in the decider, to make her first semi-final and score her first Top 5 win since Wimbledon.

“I’m very happy with my match today,” Vondrousova said. “I think it was a great one, a tough one.

“She’s a fighter, and I think we played a great match. Yeah, we broke each other couple of times, so I think, yeah, it was a very good match.”

Vondrousova led 4-1 in the second set, and broke for a third time to deny Sabalenka’s effort to pull it back to 4-3.

The Belarusian, however, led 5-4 in the decider, but Vondrousova took 3 games in a row to set up her semi-final clash, which is already her best record at Stuttgart.

“She’s a great player so I just tried to stay in the rallies,” said the Czech, who proved herself a threat last year at Wimbledon, beating two Top 10 players to win the title. “She hits very fast so it’s tough to do something. But I stayed calm in the crucial moment.”

Marta Kostyuk upset Coco Gauff to make her 3rd semi-final in a row at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix Stuttgart on Friday night

© Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Vondrousova meets World No 14 Kostyuk in the Last 4, who has downed Gauff and China’s top-ranked Zheng Qinwen along the way.

Kostyuk saved the best for last, closing out the day with a thrilling contest against the American that went the full distance.

“Was very intense match. I, honestly, from the beginning of the match, I think I was really off. I couldn’t find a way to, like, put myself together really,” Kostyuk admitted later. “Then, slowly by slowly, she made some unforced errors in the second set, and I just, kind of, got it back, and I had some chances in the beginning of the third, which I didn’t use. Yeah, I mean, it was a bit of a roller coaster, but a really incredible ending, definitely.”

Kostyuk, who was down a set with Gauff serving 4-3 in the second, advances to her 3rd straight tournament semi-final.

“Definitely means a lot, because, you know, to be consistent in tennis, it takes a lot of work and a lot of discipline,” she said. “You know, everything around you has to work really well.

“So I’m glad with, you know, how we’re, kind of, you know, keeping it together, and in the same time, you know, like I didn’t even know it’s my third semi-final, third straight semi-final, because I take every match, like, by match. I don’t focus on the result.”

The Ukrainian needed 8 match points to stun the 3rd-ranked Gauff, who saved 3 at 5-4 down in the decider and 4 in a row in the tiebreak before succumbing.

Kostyuk herself had saved 5 match points in her win over Zheng the day before.

“It’s very, very close,” Kostyuk said. “Definitely an amazing feeling to be in the semis here.”



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