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Qatar Open: Swiatek sends top seed Sabalenka packing

Aryna Sabalenka

Bengaluru, February 25: Poland's Iga Swiatek is through to her first WTA 1000 semifinal on a hard court after a 6-2, 6-3 win over Belarusian top seed Aryna Sabalenka in the Qatar TotalEnergies Open at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex on Thursday (February 24) night.

The former French Open champion won seven out of eight breakpoints, while reeling off six successive games in the second set to secure a comfortable victory.

Next up for her is Maria Sakkari, who recorded her third win against Coco Gauff in four meetings after prevailing 6-3 6-3.

Swiatek vs Sakkari

The sixth seed is through to her sixth semi-final at WTA 1000 level or above - and targeting her first such title.

Current world No.2 Sabalenka had won their only prior encounter in group play at the WTA Finals last season, but this time around it was Swiatek who was the dominant force to level their head-to-head. Swiatek is now 2-5 against Top 2 opponents in her career.

With the defeat, 2020 Doha champion Sabalenka will fall out of the WTA world No.2 position, a spot she has held since August 23 of last year.

2020 Roland Garros champion Swiatek converted seven of her eight break points on the day. The Pole was also much more effective winning after first serves, as she won 68 per cent of those points. Sabalenka's success rate behind her own first serves lingered at 41 per cent.

"This match is going to give me a lot of confidence," Swiatek said in her post-match press conference. "I'm very happy that tactically I did a great job, and my mental game was also on point. That's the most important thing for me, because from the beginning I wanted to be aggressive and to be focusing on myself and on my game."

Six of the first seven games of the clash went to the returner, which put Swiatek at a distinct advantage as the lone hold in the second game of that streak contributed to her 5-2 lead. Another critical hold followed in the next game, giving Swiatek the opening set.

Sabalenka grabbed an early break and a 3-0 lead in the second set, but with extremely powerful forehands in her assortment of shots, Swiatek methodically chipped away at that advantage.

Swiatek reeled off six games in a row from there to pick up the straight-set win.

Swiatek and Sakkari have met three times previously, all in 2021, and Sakkari emerged the winner each time, including in last year's Roland Garros quarterfinals where the Greek ended Swiatek's title defense.

Kontaveit vs Ostapenko

Meanwhile, Anett Kontaveit remained on course for a sixth title in seven months, progressing to the semifinals after defeating Ons Jabeur in straight sets.

Champion in St Petersburg two weeks ago, Kontaveit extended her winning run to eight matches following a 6-4, 6-1 success.In the semi-finals, Kontaveit will face another in-form player in Jelena Ostapenko, who saw off Garbine Muguruza in straight sets.

Having triumphed in Dubai last week, the 15th seed has now recorded nine successive victories for the first time in her career after prevailing 6-2 6-2.

Ostapenko struck 39 winners and claimed 15 of 18 points on her opponent's second serve as she moved a step closer to a maiden title in Doha, having reached the final six years ago.

DOHA SEMIFINAL LINE-UP

(Prefix denotes seed)

7. Iga Swiatek (POL) vs 6. Maria Sakkari (GRE)

4. Anett Kontaveit (EST) vs 15. Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)

(With WTA/OPTA inputs)

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Story first published: Friday, February 25, 2022, 8:11 [IST]
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