TENNIS

Sabalenka vs. Garcia a showcase in power

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MASON, Ohio — The Western and Southern Open semifinals will be a powerhouse tennis feast on Saturday.

The first semi-final will pit 2019 champion Madison Keys against two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova. The second semi-final will see world No.7 Aryna Sabalenka take on a resurgent Caroline Garcia.

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Who will be able to impose their will to win?

Matches begin at 11:00 a.m. ET.

Seeded #6 Aryna Sabalenka vs. Caroline Garcia

Face-to-face: Sabalenka leads 2-1
Last meeting: Garcia d. Sabalenka, 6-4, 6-4, 2018 Zhuhai

No one has won more matches since the start of June on the Hologic WTA Tour than Caroline Garcia, who won her 25th with a 6-1, 7-6 win over No. 7 seed Jessica Pegula in the quarter-finals. Ranked No. 35, the Frenchwoman had to qualify to earn her place in the main draw, but her form proved unstoppable in Cincinnati. Garcia is the first qualifier to advance to the semi-finals of the event since Akgul Amanmuradova in 2007.

After defeating Diane Parry and Andrea Petkovic in straight sets in qualifying, Garcia beat two Top 10 opponents in Cincinnati, first against Maria Sakkari and then Pegula. She was broken a total of three times in her four main draw games, winning a tournament-best 93.5% of her service games.

But will this service resist the return of Sabalenka? The world No. 7 is in her first hard-court WTA 1000 semi-final of the season, with victories over Anna Kalinskaya, Shelby Rogers and Zhang Shuai. Sabalenka is trying to make her biggest final since winning Madrid in 2021.

“She’s been in the Top 10 for quite a while now, always doing well at big events,” Garcia said. “You can always count on her. No matter how many double faults she commits in a game, she is always there, always winning games, not afraid to go for it.

“So it’s going to be a big challenge for me. I’m really looking for it. It’s a good challenge to play against another aggressive player to see who can be more aggressive and do their best.”

Sabalenka overtakes Zhang in Cincy semi-final

She’s struggled with her serve since last fall’s WTA Finals, but Sabalenka brought in a biomechanics specialist to help fix her move.

“This season has been really crazy for me, a lot of challenges,” said Sabalenka. “I’m super proud of myself that I was able to handle all those difficult times this year and I was able to fight. Even if something didn’t work out, I kept trying my best, I always beat for it.

“I’m super happy to be in another semi-final, and I’ll do my best tomorrow.”

Madison Keys vs. Petra Kvitova

Face-to-face: 4-4
Last meeting: Kvitova d. Keys, 7-5, 6-4, 2021 Cincinnati first round

Game recognizes game and power recognizes power. When it comes to Madison Keys and Petra Kvitova, there’s nothing but respect between two of the game’s greatest hitters.

“She’s a big hitter, but even on the forehand she can take a little different style sometimes, which she can put a little higher with more topspin,” Kvitova told reporters after her straight-set win over Ajla Tomljanovic in the quarterfinals. “She moves very well. And especially the serve, she has a lot of service variety. She can go for the ace, she can have a kick, she has a nice serve technique.

“Definitely she has more kinds of things. Not like me, I have nothing, I’m just boom-boom.”

The two-time Wimbledon champion was certainly selling short, especially in a week that saw her battle her way past Jil Teichmann, Sorana Cirstea, Ons Jabeur and Tomljanovic to make her first WTA 1000 semi-final in two years. .

The challenge for Kvitova will be physical. In a season in which she struggled to string together wins, she admitted she entered her quarter-final feeling the wear and tear of the week. Fatigue forced her to play with more risk. It worked against Tomljanovic, but Keys poses another set of challenges.

Keys played relaxed and confident tennis in what is effectively her home tournament. The Illinois native rediscovered the attitude and play that won her the title in Adelaide and an Australian Open semi-final in January, deploying her booming groundstrokes to precise effect.

“I obviously had a few battles against Petra,” Keys said after his dominant win over Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina. “Won some, lost some. It’s never easy to play her, especially later in a draw, which means she plays really good tennis.”

Brisbane 2020 highlights: Keys returns to Kvitova

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