Photo: Pascal Ratthé / Tennis Canada
With her relatively easy win over fellow Belarusian Victoria Azarenka (6-2, 6-4), Aryna Sabalenka became the first player to enter the semifinals of the National Bank Open presented by Rogers.
The odds were certainly stacked in her favour. More powerful, more dynamic and with a much higher ranking than her rival, the 23-year-old deployed her nuclear arsenal. After 79 minutes of uneven struggle, Azarenka surrendered.
No doubt about it, the World No.3 has a devastating serve. She hit seven aces but also racked up seven double faults. Power comes at a price she is willing to pay.
Sabalenka put 74.3% of her first serves in play versus Azarenka, who landed 58.6%. The total number of breaks perfectly illustrates this: 5 for the winner, 2 for the loser.
Still, Azarenka came so close to capitalizing on all her experience in the second set. She got up 2-0 but logic eventually prevailed, just as it did in the first set.
Azarenka wraps up her week in Montréal with 52 points (62 for Sabalenka). The die was cast, and the first seed forged ahead.
Cakewalk for Karolina
The second quarterfinal of the National Bank Open presented by Rogers pitted Karolina Pliskova (4) of Czechia against No.48 Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain, and the outcome came as no surprise. The former No.1 (2017) liquidated her rival in two sets (6-4, 6-0) that lasted only 80 minutes.
An upset seemed to be brewing in the first set when Tormo secured the early break and got up 4-1, but Pliskova had no intention of letting the set slip and racked up 11 consecutive games to overpower the Spaniard.
The rest was a cakewalk for Karolina. She earned seven breaks and scored 67 points versus 42. Tormo got only 43.3% of her first serves and 14.3% of her second serves in play. With statistics like those, her chances were slim.
Pliskova was able to capitalize on her adversary’s nerves and execute some high-quality tennis that bodes very, very well for the rest of the weekend. Waiting in the wings in the semis is a far more dangerous opponent: Aryna Sabalenka.