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Azarenka dismantles Mertens again; Sabalenka in amazing comeback

Victoria Azarenka picked apart Elise Mertens’ game at the US Open last month and repeated the treatment on Friday at the Ostrava Open.

Victoria Azarenka Victoria Azarenka

Victoria Azarenka moved a step closer to a second post-lockdown WTA title on Friday as she brushed aside Elise Mertens of Belgium to reach the Ostrava Open semi-finals.

The Belarussian seized on four of her six break-point opportunities to win 6-4, 6-1, following up her victory over the same opponent at the same stage of the US Open in September.

In New York, Mertens surprisingly won only one game as Azarenka produced a performance that overwhelmed the 24-year-old, and although Friday’s clash was a more close-fought affair in the first set, eventually it became another comfortable win for the former world No 1.

“I feel she adjusted her game a bit from New York, so it took me a bit of time to adapt to that,” Azarenka said. “Today I didn’t expect the same result, but I did feel like I was really in control after I adjusted my game – I felt I made it very difficult for her to earn points.”

Azarenka finished runner-up to Naomi Osaka at the US Open but took the title at the Western and Southern Open event, also held at Flushing Meadows, in the run-up to the slam.

Sakkari through, amazing Sabalenka fightback

Greece’s Maria Sakkari, who took a set off Serena Williams at the US Open, scored an impressive 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory over Tunisian Ons Jabeur and will face Azarenka next.

American Jennifer Brady, another who made her mark in New York by reaching a maiden grand slam semi-final, dug deep to see off impressive Russian qualifier Veronika Kudermetova in three sets. Kudermetova, who beat second seed Karolina Pliskova in the second round this week, could not build on a strong start to the quarter-final tussle as she exited 6-7, (5-7), 6-3, 6-1.

Brady will face Aryna Sabalenka in Saturday’s last-four matches after she produced a stunning fightback, coming from 6-0, 4-0 down to defeat Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-0 4-6 6-0.

The WTA season only resumed in August, having been halted in March amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

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