While the top 3 seeds, Elina Svitolina, Garbiñe Muguruza and Belinda Bencic, all advanced to the quarter-finals of the Chicago Fall Classic on Thursday, 7th seeded Elise Mertens was upset by Danielle Collins in straight sets, and Mai Hotama took out Shelby Rogers.
I started really slow. Starting the match, I think I was a little bit sleepy. I started to move my legs better, I started to put more balls in. After, it was really tight between us. Ons Jabeur
Also through are Elena Rybakina, the 5th seed, and Ons Jabeur, seeded 6, who came from a set down to get past 9th-seeded Jessica Pegula, while Marketa Vondrousova up-ended 16th seeded Jil Teichmann to make it into the quarters.
Svitolina, the top seed from the Ukraine, continued her undefeated run in Chicago by beating Elena-Gabriela Ruse of Romania, 6-3 6-3, having now won 7 consecutive matches in the Windy City after lifting the Chicago Women’s Open trophy in August.
It took her an hour and 48 minutes to see off the World No 98, who was tackling a Top 10 player for the first time in her career.
“It was a good match today, and I think there were lots of tough games, tough rallies,” Svitolina said, after her win. “In the end, the score was 6-3 6-3, but it was quite a tough battle.
“It was up-and-down a little bit, but in the end, I think I was quite solid, and was really happy with my movement today. Happy I could win in two sets.”
Svitolina, the World No 6, won 63 percent of Ruse’s second-service points and held a whopping 16 break points during the match, although she only converted 4, which were more than enough to ease her to victory.
The Ukrainian is currently on the longest streak for the most consecutive weeks in the Top 10, with 209 weeks, while Chicago is her 10th quarter-final of the season.
Thursday’s match began with a lengthy 17-minute game that saw 9 deuces coming and going before Svitolina ended the battle by converting her 5th break point for a 1-0 lead.
Ruse eventually clawed her way back, slamming a backhand crosscourt winner to level at 3-3, but Svitolina swept through the next game to reclaim her advantage, and then broke again to close out the first set.
Another lengthy 7-deuce game went Ruse’s way as she held for 1-1 in the second, but it was Svitolina who snagged the only service break of the set to edge ahead 4-2.
When Svitolina served for the match at 5-3, Ruse used big ground-strokes to fend off a match point and earn herself a second break point in that game, but a Ukrainian passing shot produced a second match point, which the top seed converted with her second ace of the day.
Next up for Svitolina is Jabeur after the Tunisian advanced in the early morning over Pegula to reach their quarter-final contest.
Svitolina has won all three of her previous tour meetings with Jabeur, but their history dates back to juniors.
“I think the first time I played against her [was] in 2010 in Belgium,” Svitolina recalled about their junior days. “And then the next week we played in the final of Roland Garros! It was really special for both of us.
“She’s such a nice person, and it’s going to be a big battle, and I’ll try to do my best.”
Jabeur got the early start at 9am, which is unusual on the tour where matches generally do not begin before 11 am.
“I think the last time I got up at 5.30 am, probably, was during the pre-season or to take a flight,” joked the Tunisian. “Not to play a match!
“But I can’t complain much. I just tried to do everything an hour earlier than usual, even going to sleep and eating an hour before.”
Slow out of the blocks, Jabeur lost the first 4 games of her 3rd-round clash with Pegula in 16 minutes before righting the ship to advance, 1-6 6-2 6-3, over the American.
“Whether it’s 9 am or 5 pm, playing Jessica is never easy, so I’m glad I got the rhythm later, started moving better and found the solutions today to win,” Jabeur added.
Both Jabeur and Pegula have risen into the Top 25 due to Grand Slam quarter-final runs at Wimbledon and Melbourne, respectively.
The Tunisian’s surge into the last 8 at SW19 came after winning a historic first WTA title in Birmingham, but her hard-court momentum hit a snag when she failed to close out Pegula in a topsy-turvy quarter-final in Canada.
“I think I learned a lot from that match, especially learning to focus better at 30-0 on my serve,” she said, recalling her set and 5-4 lead on Pegula at the Omnium Banque Nationale in Montréal. “I got up 40-0 in the last game, but you always expect her to come back.
“I started playing defensively and that was a little mistake at the end, but I’m glad I got the game and could close things out this time.
“This is something I like about myself and my team: Montréal wasn’t just a loss, but something we learned from, and I’m glad we’re still learning so that everything can go well.”
Pegula’s year has been under-pinned by her 4 wins over former World No 1 Karolina Pliskova before the Czech finally earned her revenge at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
The American began the early encounter with Jabeur playing cleaner tennis as her higher-ranked opponent sprayed 11 unforced errors in a 25-minute first set.
Jabeur flipped the stats considerably in the second, levelling the match behind a second break and 14 winners to just 5 errors.
They traded solid holds early in the decider when, in the 8th game, Jabeur pulled off a breath-taking drop-shot as Pegula served at 30-15, and then reeled off the next 6 points to find herself up 3 match points.
The American put on a brave last stand to save them all, and even held 2 break points of her own, but Jabeur made no mistake on her 4th chance, nailing a big serve to clinch the contest after 94 minutes.
“I started really slow. Starting the match, I think I was a little bit sleepy,” she admitted later. “I started to move my legs better, I started to put more balls in. After, it was really tight between us.”
In all she struck 24 winners to 21 unforced errors, half of which came in the first set, to book her quarter-final date with Svitolina.
Meanwhile, 2nd-seeded Muguruza of Spain advanced to the quarter-finals without striking a ball, as No 14 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus withdrew from their round-of-16 encounter.
The pair of two-time Grand Slam champions and former World No 1 players had been slated to meet for the 6th time, with Muguruza holding a 3-2 lead in their head-to-head.
Now in the quarter-finals, Muguruza will face this week’s big surprise package in 22-year-old Japanese qualifier Mai Hontama, who stunned Shelby Rogers, 6-4 6-7(1) 6-1.
Hontama, ranked 200, is contesting the first WTA Tour main draw of her career this week, and she is notching up big wins, cruising past former World No 4 Caroline Garcia in straight sets in her first tour-level match in the opening round and, after receiving a second-round walkover over No 11 seed Anett Kontaveit, then collecting another Top 60 win over World No 41 Rogers, who had eliminated Bianca Andreescu on Wednesday.
Hontama shook off a poor showing in the second-set tiebreak to sweep through the third set and claim the win after two-and-a-half hours of play.
Olympic Bronze medallist Svitolina was joined in the quarters by the last two players left standing at Tokyo 2020, Silver medalist Vondrousova and Gold medallist Bencic.
Vondrousova of the Czech Republic claimed her spot in the last 8 after beating Teichmann, the No 16 seed from Switzerland, 6-4 6-3, in an hour and 19 minutes and she now will face 10th-seeded Collins from the USA.
Collins scored a 6-2 6-4 upset win over Belgian Mertens, the 7th seed, winning 7 straight games from 2-1 down in the first set.
“It’s been tough conditions with the wind. I’m just trying to do my best,” Collins said on-court after the match. “I think both of our serves weren’t at our best, but she was still hitting it pretty big. I had a bit of pressure there, but luckily, I was able to pull through.
“I think I had good energy from the very beginning. I executed my game plan really well and was moving well. I think I’ve made some good adjustments the past couple of days with the conditions here.
“There’s a lot going on around the courts, and the wind, the weather changing here and there, you have to make technical adjustments. You have to be flexible to be able to make those changes.”
Bencic, also from Switzerland and seeded 3 seed this week, staved off Tereza Martincova of the Czech Republic, 6-2 7-6(5), after an hour 41 minutes.
She converted 4 of her 8 break points in the match, but was nearly forced into a 3rd set when, serving at 5-6 in the second, she was down triple set point at 0-40 before steering herself out of trouble and winning the subsequent tiebreak.
Bencic advances to a quarter-final showdown with No 5 seed Rybakina, in a rematch of the Olympics semi-finals.
Rybakina finished 4th at the Olympics, meaning all 4 Olympic semi-finalists have moved into the Chicago quarter-finals.
In exactly 2 hours, the Kazakh picked up a 3rd career win against Veronika Kudermetova from Russia, 7-6(4) 7-5.
The pair twice traded breaks in the first set, and Kudermetova later saved a set point en route to levelling at 5-5, but Rybakina sprinted to a 5-1 lead in the tiebreak and, although the Russian nearly levelled again, the 5th seed pocketed a one-set lead by winning both of the Russian’s final service points.