Tennis

Guadalajara | Rybakina keeps herself in the race as Krejcikova and Haddad Maia fall

Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, who should have been a shoe-in into the WTA Finals but missed out on the necessary points denied to her in July, put herself in contention for a spot with a 7-6(5) 6-2 win over former World No 1 Karolina Pliskova in the 1st-round of the Guadalajara Open on Tuesday.

I come from a country that is very far, and I was actually surprised the last year that I got this love from every single Mexican in this tournament. I’m very grateful and thankful for that. I’ll try and enjoy as much as I can this week because I want to stay until the end. I really like this place. Maria Sakkari

It was a meeting between two of the top servers on tour, who have combined to fire over 600 aces this season, and Rybakina from Kazakhstan came back from 3-5 down in the first set to oust the Czech, finishing the match with 9 aces to Pliskova’s 4.

The Czech served for the opening set at 5-3, but was unable to complete the task as the Russian-born Kazakh battled back to force a tiebreak, slamming down one of her aces to take a 5-2 lead, but Pliskova pulled back to 5-5.

Rybakina forced a netted error with a drop-shot to earn set point at 6-5, when Pliskova coughed up one her 6 double-faults to cede the first set, and the Kazakh eased through the second behind her powerful groundstrokes and booming serve to advance after 76-minutes.

With the win, Rybakina sets up an intriguing 2nd-round match against No 3 seed Jessica Pegula of the United States, who won their only prior meeting in Miami earlier this year.

Rybakina can still book her spot in the WTA Finals, which kick off on 31 October in Fort Worth, Texas, but she has to win the title here in Mexico to do so.

The WTA Finals is contested by the game’s top 8 players, with Iga Swiatek, Ons Jabeur and Pegula having locked up the first 3 spots.

Anna Kalinskaya upset 9th seed Barbora Krejcikova in Guadalajara on Tuesday

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Two seeds were beaten on Tuesday, with Anna Kalinskaya and Katerina Siniakova knocking out 9th-seeded Barbora Krejcikova and 11th seed Beatriz Haddad Maia, respectively, ending their hopes of qualifying for the WTA Finals.

After the No 15 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova was sent home by Camila Osorio on Monday, Krejcikova and Haddad Maia are the highest seeds to fall in Guadalajara, the final WTA 1000 event of the season, so far.

Krejcikova withdrew from the Winners Open last week in Cluj-Napoca with a left wrist injury, after having won the titles in Tallinn and Ostrava, but she saw her 9-match winning streak ended in 1 hour and 42 minutes here in Mexico by the Russian.

The early games proved key in Kalinskaya’s 3rd Top 20 win of the season, as she broke the Czech 9th seed for 2-0 in the opener on her 4th break point after a 6-deuce game, and then saved 2 break points to extend her lead to 3-0.

She did not face another break point for the rest of the set, and broke Krejcikova again at 1-1 to take the lead in the second.

Although the Czech broke to love to even the score at 2-2, she dropped her serve again and never recovered as Kalinskaya lost just 2 points in her last 3 service games, winning through 6-3 6-4 after an hour and 42 minutes.

Krejcikova’s doubles partner, Siniakova, fought her way through a tough opening set and ran away with the second, to dispatch Haddad Maia, the Brazilian 11th-seed, 7-5 6-2 in an hour 38 minutes.

After she lost an early break lead, Siniakova denied Haddad Maia a chance to turn the set all the way around when she held serve in the 8th game from 0-40 down.

Failing to convert 2 break points herself at 4-4, Siniakova then won the next 7 games as the Brazilian’s resistance fell away.

Haddad Maia has now lost her last 3 matches to Czech opponents, falling to Krejcikova in the quarter-finals of the Tallinn Open and beaten at the Agel Open in Ostrava in her opener by Karolina Muchova.

Eugenie Bouchard beat Kayla Day to play Jelena Ostapenko in round 2 at the WTA Guadalajara Open Akron 2022

© Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Seeds Jelena Ostapenko, Madison © and Danielle Collins, however, all made it into round 2 on Tuesday.

Ostapenko, the 12th-seed from Latvia, had the quickest path through in a 6-1 6-3 win over qualifier Lauren Davis, breaking the American’s 5 times in 70 minutes to move through to a 2nd-round meeting with Canadian wild-card Eugenie Bouchard, who got past another American qualifier Kayla Davis, 7-5 6-3.

Bouchard’s win was her first at a WTA 1000 level event since Dubai in 2019, and the 28-year-old, whose career has been plagued by injury, was forced to retire midway through her match at the Transylvania Open last week with a hip injury.

Keys, the American 13th seed, came from an early break behind in her 6-3 6-3 win over Poland’s Magda Linette, and will play Ajla Tomljanovic in round 2 after the Australian dispatched local wild-card Fernanda Contreras Gomez, 6-2 6-1.

No 14 seed Collins needed 73 minutes for a 6-4 6-1 win over Caroline Dolehide in an all-American affair in which she won 7 straight games from 4-4.

Collins’ next opponent is Polish qualifier Magdalena Frech, who defeated Yulia Putintseva from Kazakstan, 6-3 6-4.

Both Keys and Collins also remain in the running for the WTA finals.

Other 1st-round winners on Tuesday included Croatia’s Donna Vekic, who beat lucky loser Laura Pigossi from Brazil, 6-4 6-1; Italian Elisabetta Cocciaretto, a 6-2 6-1 winner over Anastasia Potpapova; Martina Trevisan, also from Italy, who defeated Nao Hibino from Japan, 6-4 6-3; and Czech Marie Bouzkova, a 6-3 7-5 winner over compatriot Tereza Martincova.

Maria Sakkari increased her chance of qualifying for the WTA Finals with her win over Marta Kostyuk on Tuesday

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In 2nd-round action, Maria Sakkari, the No 4 seed from Greece, made it into the 3rd-round on Tuesday, ending a 3-match losing run with a 6-4 6-4 victory over Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk.

The pair traded 2 breaks apiece before the Greek, who received a bye in the first round, won 3 straight games to take the opening set.

Sakkari, then broke again to take a 5-4 lead in the second, saving 3 break points in the following game, and holding serve to close out the win.

Kostyuk assisted Sakkari’s cause by double-faulting 15 times while hitting 7 aces, and although the Greek fired just 3 aces, she kept her double-fault count down to 4.

The gritty match saw Sakkari and Kostyuk combine for 22 break point opportunities, but it was Sakkari’s play on those big points that proved the difference.

Kostyuk generated 13 break points, but she could only break twice, while Sakkari broke 4 times from 9 chances.

“I come from a country that is very far, and I was actually surprised the last year that I got this love from every single Mexican in this tournament,” Sakkari said. “I’m very grateful and thankful for that.

“I’ll try and enjoy as much as I can this week because I want to stay until the end. I really like this place.”

Sakkari, who also is battling to make the season-ending WTA Finals, will next play Collins next.

She began the tournament in 10th place in the season-long standings, one spot out of the last qualifying position, currently held by Veronika Kudermetova of Russia.

Kudermetova, who is seeded 8th in Guadalajara, will play San Diego finalist Vekic in the 2nd-round on Wednesday.

Vekic, who is a good friend of Sakkari’s, admitted she was well aware of the Race implications.

“She’s playing really well,” Vekic said after her opening win over Laura Pigossi. “I know she’s fighting for the Finals.

“I’m going to try to stop her, for my sake, and for the sake of my friends that are just behind her also, who for sure want me to win.”

Caroline Garcia resisted a strong challenge from qualifier Rebecca Marino but prevailed in Mexico

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In other 2nd-round action, 6th-seeded Caroline Garcia of France rallied past Canada’s Rebecca Marino, 6-7(2) 6-3 7-6(5), and 7th-seed Daria Kasatkina from Russia routed China’s Lin Zhu, 6-2 6-1.

Kasatkina also bolstered her chance of qualifying for the WTA Finals with her straight-set win, while Garcia overcame 24 aces from Marino to stay in the hunt.

Sitting at No 7 in the Race, Kasatkina maintained her position by easing into the Round of 16.

“As much as I was trying to push away the thought of the Finals, to trick myself, I cannot,” Kasatkina told WTA Insider. “I just have to accept this pressure and face it the way I can.

“It’s the first time I actually have a chance to compete, not as an alternate, so it’s stressful. But the way I am doing on the court, I’m pretty happy.

“I’m not in a bad position. And after this match I’m in an even better position. That’s why this was a really important one and now I feel I put the heavy backpack down.”

Kasatkina will face either Monastir champion Elise Mertens or Anna Kalinskaya next.

“This pressure is good,” she added. “If, at the end of 2019, someone tells me in three years you’re going to have the pressure to go to the WTA Finals to play, I would say are you kidding me? I cannot believe it. So far it’s a very good problem to have.”

Meanwhile, Garcia is sitting at No 6 on the Race to the WTA Finals Leaderboard, and closed out the night session in dramatic fashion.

Marino managed just one break of serve with the Frenchwoman, who answered with 13 aces as she led 4-2 in the final set before the Canadian finally broke through and levelled the set at 4-4.

She came within 2 points of earning her first Top 10 win, but Garcia served herself out of trouble at 5-6, 0-30 to force the final tiebreak in which the Frenchwoman let a 4-1 lead slip before firing an ace at 5-5 to earn match point, and converting after 2 hours and 31 minutes.

Garcia will face either Belinda Bencic or Sloane Stephens in the Round of 16.

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