Tennis

Toronto | Gauff outlasts Sabalenka as Pliskova topples Sakkari

As Beatriz Haddad Maia put paid to top seed Iga Swiatek’s hopes at Sobeys Stadium in the National Bank Open presented by Rogers on Thursday, another marathon encounter took place on the Grandstand where American Coco Gauff, the 10th seed, upset 6th-seeded Aryna Sabalenka, 7-5 4-6 7-6(4), while Karolina Pliskova, the 14th-seeded Czech, topped Maria Sakkari, the No 3 seed from Greece, 6-1 6-7(9) 6-3.

It definitely gives me a lot of confidence because I know I can tough it out in those tough moments. These are the type of players that I need to have to beat if I want to win a Grand Slam. So these matches are giving me more confidence. And I know how it feels in those moments against these players. They’re not going to give you anything and you shouldn’t expect that. Coco Gauff

Sabalenka tossed her racket in frustration after surrendering the deciding point in her match against Gauff that took 3 hours, 11 minutes, with both players having struggled with the wind that resulted in the Belarusian coughing up 18 double-faults among her 42 unforced errors, and Gauff, 15 amid 10 miscues.

Gauff survived to squeeze out the gruelling 3-set win in an error-strewn affair.

“The conditions weren’t easy today, a lot of wind,” Gauff said. “I think I hung in there, mentally, and that’s what I’m most proud of.”

The 10th seed, who fell to Swiatek at Roland Garros in her first Grand Slam final this year, prevailed against the erratic Sabalenka, finishing with 9 aces and saving 10 of the 14 break points that she faced.

The 18-year-old followed up her win over Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina the previous day, which took 2 hours and 45 minutes.

“These type of matches, the goal, yeah, to win the tournament,” Gauff said. “But I feel, like for me, I needed these matches leading up into the US Open.

“So if I have a tough moment, I can look back on this.”

With the win over Sabalenka, Gauff becomes the youngest player to reach back-to-back quarter-finals in Canada since Jennifer Capriati in 1990 and 1991.

The American admitted that trailing 3-0 in the final set, she had to give herself a serious talking to: “I said, if I was going to lose, I’m not going to lose like this. I had to change, and that’s what I did.”

In the longest match of her young career, Gauff was in full control over the sputtering, blustering double-faulting Sabalenka, who was down a set and 4-1, but the Belarusian loosened up just as the American tightened up, allowing the 6th seed to run off 8 straight games to level and go up 3-0 in the third.

Now behind, Gauff settled down in the wind and found her footwork again and, while both continued to double-fault, the American was the better mover down the stretch, and handled the pressure.

“It definitely gives me a lot of confidence because I know I can tough it out in those tough moments,” Gauff said. “These are the type of players that I need to have to beat if I want to win a Grand Slam.

“So these matches are giving me more confidence. And I know how it feels in those moments against these players. They’re not going to give you anything and you shouldn’t expect that.”

The Roland Garros finalist also booked her place in her 6th quarter-final of 2022 so far, and 4th in her last 5 tournaments.

Her overall season record is now 30-14, and the result claimed the teenager’s 3rd Top 10 win of the year.

Simona Halep was a straight sets winner over Jil Teichmann and will face Coco Gauff in the quarter-finals

© Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Gauff’s quarter-final test will be against No 15 seed Simona Halep, after the former World No 1 from Romania defeated Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann, 6-2 7-5, in 91 minutes, and against whom the American has yet to win a set in 3 previous meetings.

“She’s super young,” Halep said. “She’s powerful, she’s strong. So it’s going to be a tough match like always. We played a few times together.

“It’s a big challenge for me again to play quarters here in Canada.

“I feel confident, but I know that it’s going to be tough. So tomorrow’s a new day and I will fight like today for my match.”

Meanwhile, Pliskova, the 2021 runner-up, fired down 10 aces on the way to her 3-set win over the powerful Sakkari, the World No 4.

She could not serve out the match at 5-4 in the second set, and Sakkari did not convert her 2 set points at 6-5 either.

The Czech grabbed 3 match points in the second-set tiebreak, but the Greek withstood them all before converting her 4th set point to level the clash.

Pliskova regrouped and romped to a 5-1 lead in the decider, but she dropped her serve in that game despite holding her 4th match point, and needed to save a final break point at 5-3 before at last nailing her 6th to book her quarter-final spot.

It was a topsy-turvy, two-and-a-half-hour show-down with Sakkari that took Pliskova, a former World No 1, back to over .500 with her 13-12 win-loss record for the season.

Although Pliskova had not faced a Top 10 player this year before this match, she gritted her way to victory over the Greece, and has now won her last 4 matches against Top 5 opposition.

19-year old Zheng Qinwen brought Bianca Andreescu’s run at the Canadian Open to an end on Thursday night

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The Czech’s opponent in the quarter-finals is China’s Zheng Qinwen, who ended the hopes of home favourite Bianca Andreescu with a 7-5 5-7 6-2 victory over the former US Open champion from Canada.

The 19-year old Chinese, who reached the 4th-round at Roland-Garros earlier this year where she was the only player to take a set of Swiatek, kept her break-through year on track, quieting the home crowd on the stadium court with the win.

“I wouldn’t say I was on my ‘A’ game, but I gave my best with what I had today,” Andreescu said. “I think I fought really hard.”

After injuries and a mental health break, Andreescu admits she is not at her peak performance, not feeling as good as she was back in 2019 when she won here and then at the US Open.

“I think it’s getting there,” the Canadian continued. “But, like I said before, if I continue to just give my best and stay really committed to this, because I really, really want this — especially after, you know, taking so much time off, taking time for myself, and all those really tough moments.

“I just feel like I’m in a great place right now.”

In front of the night crowd, Andreescu broke Zheng in the first game of the match, and when she went up 3-1, the fans got chanting, but the Chinese levelled things up and then capitalised on a smattering of the Canadian’s unforced errors to take the first set.

Frustrated, Andreescu managed to dramatically keep things evenly-pegged in the second, until, at 5-5, she capitalised on a break point, pumping both fists and yelling: “Yeah, come on!”

Zhang dominated the 3rd set, though, breaking Andreescu 3 times, and later admitted she had found it tough, given the atmosphere.

“In third set the crowd, they were like shouting a lot,” the Chinese said. “I was leading and, you know, it’s 30-Love and I served two double-faults in a row.

“Well that’s hard for me because such an important game, last set. But at the end I am happy that I got through the pressure to get this match.”

It was all over after 2 hours and 58 minutes, and the crowd grew ever quieter as the match ended.

“I really wish I won for you guys,” Andreescu told her fans afterwards. “I can’t wait to come back, honestly. That’s all I’m thinking about right now. Two more years.”

Over the course of the first 3 days here, no player had spent more time on court for matches than Andreescu.

“I definitely need like three days off, maybe,” Andreescu said. “I felt pretty good in the morning,

Jessica Pegula is the highest seed left standing at No 7 after beating defending champion Camila Giorgi at Sobeys Stadium in Toronto

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Earlier in the day, 7th-seeded Jessica Pegula of the United States defeated defending champion Camila Giorgi from Italy, 3-6 6-0 7-5.

Giorgi failed to convert a match point and Pegula took advantage by winning in 3 sets.

In the up-and-down battle, Pegula fought back from a break down at 4-2 in the final set, and saved the match point at 5-4, before collecting the topsy-turvy victory and improving her record to 6-2 against Giorgi.

“The conditions were so tough, and I knew it was just going to be a mental battle today,” Pegula said after the match, which lasted a tidy 1 hour and 57 minutes.

“It’s always a mental battle playing Giorgi, especially with the way she plays. She can be so hot and cold, so it was just a matter of mentally toughing it out. I’m always happy to get through a match like that.

“Of course, when you’re playing it, you don’t really want to do that. You don’t really want to stress yourself out that much, but at the end of the day, those are the matches you have to pull through.”

Pegula won 78 percent of her first-service points and converted 6 of her 9 break points, rebounding after dropping an opening set in which she was 2-0 up.

Her next opponent, Yulia Putintseva, was a 6-3 7-5 victor against Alison Riske-Amritraj, coming from a break down in the second set.

Putintseva, the Kazakh No 2 in the rankings behind Wimbledon champion Rybakina at No 46, levelled her overall head-to-head against Riske-Amritraj to 3-3 with the win.

The match was lost late in the second set when Riske-Amritraj led 5-3, and later, had 0-40 on Putintseva’s serve at 5-4 but, at 5-5, she failed to convert 3 games points for 6-5 before surrendering serve for a 6th and final time in the match.

Pegula and Putintseva have never played each other.

The quarter-final line-up sees Pegula as the highest seed left standing at No 7, but with Gauff, Bencic, Halep and Pliskova, also seeded, and pretenders Haddad Maia, Zheng and Putintseva in contention, few would call as to who will make the Last 4.

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