Aryna Sabalenka and Maria Sakkari are the first semifinalists of WTA 1000 Mutua Madrid Open. Both the players advanced into semis after really tough quarterfinals matches, which they have both played against lower ranked opponents and needed to come back from being a set down.
Sabalenka met the only one unseeded player in quarterfinals line-up, being a huge pre-match favorite against Mayar Sherif. The match started really well for the Egyptian though, as Sherif has dominated her titled opponent, playing whole the set on the enormous level. The Belarusian lost it 2-6 without having any response for great performance of her opponent, as Sherif gave away just 4 points during all her service games in opening set. The Egyptian followed the blow with earning another break on Sabalenka in the opening game of second set, but she dropped down her level since then. The world's number 2 was also a bit erratic at this point and both players lost their service games till the score 2-2. 5th game was somewhat crucial, as Sabalenka needed to face another breakpoint, but made a huge hold, which turned this match over. Sherif could still not find her serving performance and Sabalenka run away to win this set with a score 6-2. The Australian Open champion has seemingly clicked the gear and won 9 games in a row, making it through with a score 2-6 6-2 6-1 eventually.
"I just could not adjust for her game, and I was really going crazy. I am really happy that I was able to stop myself, to take a little breath and just like start everything from the beginning. Good that I was keep fighting for every point no matter what the second set. And then in the third set I did not give her much chances to play her game. I think I am really mentally strong. I had so many matches like that when I was down in the score or when I was down with the match points and I was coming back." - said Sabalenka in a post-match interview.
Maria Sakkari needed 2:55 hours to join Sabalenka in the first semifinals pairing of the tournament, as Irina Camelia Begu made the Greek play very hard to deny the upset. The world's number 9 was a pre-match favorite, but the 1.69 odd could indicate, that this will not be a one-sided match, especially that the Romanian approached the QFs without losing a single set in three matches. Begu continued her flawless strike after winning the opening set. The 31th seed was on the front foot in whole the set, moving into a break lead three times, but did not manage to convert it into set win until the tiebreak, where she occured to be better with a score 7-3. Sakkari took the initiative in second set, leading even 5-2 with a double break. She needed two attempts to serve for the set, as got broken to love in 8th game, but managed to force the decider with the score 6-4 in this set. The decider was a really intense battle despite the result that distorts the picture of the play a little bit. Sakkari won 6-2, but it was more about being effective in the crucial points, because Begu had also her chances in this set. The Romanian could move up front in second game, but Sakkari made a big hold, cancelling two breakpoints from being 15-40 down. The Greek took the lead in third game after converting 4th breakpoint in long and tight game. Begu could level the score in 6th game, but wasted another breakpoint chance, third and the last in this set. Whole the set lasted as long as 54 minutes despite just 8 games played there.
Sakkari shared her thoughts about this difficult match and praised her upcoming semifinal's opponent: "Her gameplan was very different from any other that I faced the last few years on the tour. It is not easy to face those moonballs because you want to hit the ball, but you cannot because the altitude does not help you. I am glad it was a mental win today because tennis-wise it wasn't as good as yesterday. I will give myself a chance to play better tennis in a couple of days. We all know that Sabalenka is in top form right now. She is the one that is playing the best tennis right now, better than anyone else. Obviously it is not hard court, her favorite surface, but she won this tournament and she is playing very good."
Sabalenka and Sakkari set up an exciting pairing between two current top 10 players, who will fight for the place in the final. The Belarusian will surely be a favorite there, as being the most succesful player in 2023 so far and feeling really well after the switch to clay surface. Sabalenka leads the H2H against Sakkari, as she won 5 out of 8 matches played between them. The Greek is never to write off in this battle though, as clay seems to be the most succesful surface of all in regard to her performances in last 52 weeks. Sakkari has won 75% of her clay matches (12 wins to 4 loses), while her general winning ratio is 64.6% (42W - 23L). Sabalenka creates more from the game, but both have really impressive match efficiency ratio on clay - Sabalenka 2.833, Sakkari 2.518. This is expected to be a really high quality tennis show on Thursday. The second semifinal's pairing will be emerged tomorrow, as Iga Swiatek plays against Petra Martic and Jessica Pegula meets Veronika Kudermetova in two pending quarterfinals.