Top seed Ons Jabeur was pushed hard by qualifier Alycia Parks and survived at the bett1 Open in Berlin on Thursday, while Coco Gauff, Belinda Bencic and Veronika Kudermetova also advanced to the quarter-finals of the WTA 500 tournament.
I started to play really slow,. I gave her a lot of chances and I started to do a lot of mistakes. This surface, you need to play aggressive. If you start to slow down, you’ll lose. … [in the third set], I started to play more inside the court; if I had chances, I started to play more aggressive. Veronika Kudermetova
Jabeur managed to close out her encounter in 2 sets, but it was by no means an easy task as she had to save a set point before quelling the big-hitting American, 6-2 7-6(8), after an hour and 31 minutes on court.
“[It was] difficult to play with that [low] amount of rallies,” she admitted later. “Especially her serve is really fast, so I had to adapt my return.
“The second set, she started to play much better, and I had to take my chances when I had the break.
“It’s tough, I should have taken my chances when I was serving [in the tiebreak].
“I knew, if it was gonna be 6-5, it would be really tough for me. But I’m glad I stayed calm afterwards.”
Jabeur had beaten Parks 6-4 6-0 in their only previous meeting, on the green clay of the 2021 Charleston WTA 250 event, but the American’s formidable serve made their grass-court rematch substantially closer, and the Tunisian barely escaped being forced into a 3rd set.
Parks determined on first-strike tennis and, as a result, the World No 169 set much of the match’s tempo, striking more winners than Jabeur, 18 to 13, but also significantly more unforced errors, with 31 to 17, many of which occurred during the first set-and-a-half.
While Jabeur put the pressure on Parks’ serve early on, she missed out on 3 break points in the opening game, but she did manage back-to-back breaks to take a 4-1 lead.
Although Parks got one back, she struggled on her service as Jabeur earned her 3rd break in the 7th game to open up a 5-2 lead, and then converted on her first set point.
Jabeur gained a 6-2, 3-1 lead, thanks to solid serving and by keeping Parks on the run to draw mistakes, but the World No 4 was nearly caught out when the American raised her game, inspired by a stroke of luck in the form of a dead net cord that enabled her to break back for 3-3.
It signalled the start of a dog-fight and the Tunisian soon found herself battling her own inconsistency as she sought to escape a contest that had suddenly got a lot tighter.
Despite Jabeur producing a magical flicked backhand slice passing shot to save break point serving at 3-4, and a terrific defensive point to move up 5-3 in the tiebreak, Parks remained stubbornly dogged.
Closing out the match out was yet another struggle for Jabeur, who squandered triple match point from 6-3, then needed to find some of her best forehands of the day to save a set point at 6-7 but, on her 5th chance, the top seed finally advanced thanks to an unreturned serve.
The result puts Jabeur into her 8th quarter-final of 2022, all at WTA 500 level or above, where she will face Aliaksandra Sasnovich for a possible 4th semi-final slot of the season, while 21-year old Parks can feel proud to have acquitted herself well in her first career meeting with a Top 5 player.
Coco Gauff had a relatively straight-forward win over Wang Xinyu on the grass
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Another American, Coco Gauff, seeded 7 here in Berlin, reached her first grass-court quarter-final by beating Chinese qualifier Wang Xinyu, 6-0 6-4.
The 18-year-old, who reached her first Grand Slam final at the French Open on clay earlier this month, cruised through the first set, but then had to come back from a break down in the second.
Gauff made her break-through by making the 4th round at Wimbledon in 2019 as a 15-year-old, and will next face 4th-seeded Karolina Pliskova from Czech Republic, who reached the final at the All England Club last year.
The American teenager needed just 63 minutes to defeat Wang, the World No 76, winning 82.1 percent of her first serves and taking 5 of the last 6 games of the match.
Belinda Bencic got past Anna Kalinskaya in 3 sets to reach her 6th quarter-final of the year
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Meanwhile, 8th-seeded Bencic from Switzerland beat wild-card Anna Kalinskaya, 6-4 1-6 6-1, to set up a quarter-final clash with Kudermetova, who overcame a disappointing second set to beat defending champion Liudmila Samsonova, 6-3 6-7(5) 6-1.
Bencic defeated Kalinskaya 7-6(2) 6-4 in the 2nd-round of ’s-Hertogenbosch a week ago and, here in Berlin, the No 8 seed repeated that result in 3 sets at the same stage to reach her 6th quarter-final of the season.
A high-quality and tightly-contested first set was ultimately decided by a single break of serve when, at 4-4, a pair of double-faults from Kalinskaya opened the door for Bencic, and the Swiss grabbed her chance with aggressive returning, before efficiently serving out the set.
The 25-year old Swiss continued to play brilliantly to immediately bring up triple break point in the first game of the second but, after squandering all three, the match turned and Bencic’s game evaporated just as Kalinskaya raised her level, particularly on her serve, and she sped through 6 out of the next 7 games.
The runner-up here last year, Bencic reversed the trend at the start of the decider, swatting a drive volley away to break for 2-0, and dominating the set from there.
A superb angled forehand sealed a second break for 5-1 and, a game later, Bencic converted her first match point with a forehand down the line, her 35th winner of the day.
Veronika Kudermetova dominated the 3rd set to defeat defending champion Liudmila Samsonova on Thursday
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To close out Thursday’s schedule, unseeded Kudermetova sealed the final quarter-final berth with a 3-set win over Samsonova after leading 4-0 in the second set and holding a match point in the 10th game before her opponent rallied.
After coming from 6-2, 5-2 down to defeat Aryna Sabalenka in Round 1, Kudermetova responded admirably to the reverse when it was Samsonova who rallied from a big deficit.
Samsonova, who won the title here as a qualifier 12 months ago, sent the match the distance on her 5th set point, barely hanging on after opening up a 6-1 lead in the tiebreak, but Kudermetova started strongly to dominate the decider, crucially saving 5 break points serving at 2-0, and sealing the win in 2 hours, 9 minutes.
“I started to play really slow,” Kudermetova said. “I gave her a lot of chances and I started to do a lot of mistakes.
“This surface, you need to play aggressive. If you start to slow down, you’ll lose. … [in the third set], I started to play more inside the court; if I had chances, I started to play more aggressive.”
Kudermetova has found form on the grass this summer after reaching the semi-finals of the Libema Open last week.
The last quarter-final will be contested by Maria Sakkari, the 2nd seed from Greece, and 6th-seed Daria Kasatkin, who both secured their spots on Wednesday.