China Open: Sabalenka, Osaka keep on winning

Published by Matt Trollope

Aryna Sabalenka recovered from a set and 5-2 down to beat Caroline Garcia at the China Open; Getty Images
Aryna Sabalenka staged a remarkable comeback to upend defending champion Caroline Garcia after Naomi Osaka destroyed fellow top-10 player Julia Goerges on Thursday in Beijing.

Aryna Sabalenka on Thursday won her eighth match in a row to reach the China Open quarterfinals.

Sabalenka roared back to defeat defending champion Caroline Garcia 5-7 7-6(3) 6-0, having trailed 5-2 in the second set.

The victory was the 20th in a three-set match this year for Sabalenka and her eighth against a top 10-ranked opponent since June. It sets up a last-eight showdown with Wang Qiang, one of two Chinese players through the quarterfinals in Beijing.

“Probably because when I was down 5-2, there’s nothing to lose and I start to play tennis,” Sabalenka said when asked how she pulled off the comeback.

“I didn’t think about, like, how good I am or just like didn’t want to put the ball totally in the line. After that I start just to play tennis. Doesn’t matter how, just put the ball in and try to win every point.

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“After that I don’t know what happened with her, but she didn’t run that well like the first and second set. She didn’t put the ball in like before. I don’t know what happened with her.

“It was just like, you know, about mind. She lost her mind probably.”

Osaka continues to cruise

While Sabalenka has now won 11 of her last 13 matches, Naomi Osaka is in even better form, winning 13 of her past 14.

Earlier on Thursday, the Japanese star sealed her place in the quarterfinals with a thumping 6-1 6-2 win over world No.10 Julia Goerges.

Osaka, the No.8 seed, won more than 90 per cent of her first serve points to shut out the German in a 66-minute rout on Diamond Court.

“On the court I have to think ‘focus’ because it’s not something that’s that natural to me. It’s something that I’ve been working on throughout this whole year. I think it finally clicked sort of, or at least it’s more consistent,” Osaka said.

“Otherwise, if I wasn’t thinking ‘focus’ then you would see me just looking everywhere and stuff.”

Osaka has dropped a total of just 10 games in three straight-sets wins in Beijing. She next faces Zhang Shuai, who upset third seed Angelique Kerber 6-1 2-6 6-0 before rapturous local fans.

Zverev stunned by Jaziri

The men’s draw was rocked when second seed Alexander Zverev suffered a stunning three-set loss to main-draw alternate Malek Jaziri.

The Tunisian, ranked No.61, beat the German 7-6(4) 2-6 6-4 in a match spanning more than two-and-half hours and finishing after midnight on Diamond Court.

Zverev sprayed a final unforced error to end the match and hurled his racquet into the hard court, shattering the frame.

Jaziri goes on to face Nikoloz Basilashvili in a wide-open bottom half of the draw; the other quarterfinal in that half pits fifth seed Kyle Edmund against qualifier Dusan Lajovic.

Juan Martin del Potro, the No.1 seed, remains alive and takes on Filip Krajinovic in the quarterfinals.

Also progressing to the last eight in Beijing were No.4 seed Fabio Fognini and Marton Fucsovics, who breezed to straight-sets victories over Andrey Rublev and Marco Cecchinato respectively.

Wozniacki seals Singapore slot

Caroline Wozniacki’s impressive straight-sets win over in-form Anett Kontaveit at Lotus Court saw the Dane reach the China Open quarterfinals – and confirm her spot in the WTA Finals field.

Wozniacki, the defending champion in Singapore, beat Kontaveit – last week’s finalist in Wuhan – 7-5 6-4 to progress in Beijing.

In the last eight she will meet qualifier Katerina Siniakova, who beat an out-of-sorts Kiki Bertens 6-4 6-3.

Wozniacki leads the head-to-head against Siniakova 2-1, although the Czech won their last meeting in the final of the claycourt tournament in Bastad last year.

Zhang, Wang stoke national pride

After Zhang’s three-set win over Kerber during Thursday’s day session, Wang shone under the lights of Diamond Court on Thursday night.

The 26-year-old, a semifinalist in Wuhan last week, stunned No.7 seed Karolina Pliskova 6-4 6-4 following a seasoned display of controlled aggression.

Speaking in her Chinese-language press conference, Wang discussed her mindset when trailing 1-4 in the second set.

“I had to forgive myself. If you don’t forgive yourself, you’re going to make more mistakes. It is a process of forgiving yourself and forcing yourself to do better,” she said.

“She wasn’t really up to par today, not really playing her best. She made errors, unforced errors.”

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