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Azarenka outlasts Sakkari, gets a shot at top seed Sabalenka

Victoria Azarenka gets past Maria Sakkari in a third-set tiebreaker to reach the Montreal quarter-finals on Thursday. Next up for Azarenka is No 1 seed Aryna Sabalenka.

Victoria Azarenka vs. Maria Sakkari was expected to be a good one at the National Bank Open in Montreal on Thursday.

It certainly did not disappoint.

Azarenka and Sakkari went the distance before the Belarusian finally triumphed 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2) after two hours and 34 minutes of competition. Sakkari threw everything she had at her opponent — finishing with twice as many winners (35 to 17) — but Azarenka recovered from a 4-2 deficit in the final set to prevail. The Greek’s advantage evaporated when she struck her seventh double-fault of the match down break point at 4-3.

Sakkari’s eighth double-fault contributed to a quick 4-0 deficit in the ensuing tiebreaker, and from there it was smooth sailing for Azarenka.

All-Belarusian battle between Azarenka and Sabalenka

Azarenka’s reward is a quarter-final showdown against top seed and fellow Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka.

Ranked No 3 in the world, Sabalenka has assumed the No 1 spot in Montreal thanks to the withdrawals of Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka. Sabalenka has lived up to the billing so far, as she followed up a three-set win over Sloane Stephens with a much more straightforward 6-1, 6-3 beatdown of Canadian wild card Rebecca Marino on Thursday afternoon.

Heading into Friday, Sabalenka leads the head-to-head series against her compatriot 2-1 after cruising 6-2, 6-2 in the Ostava final last fall on indoor hard courts.

Sabalenka and Azarenka are joined in the last eight by Coco Gauff, who got a walkover from Johanna Konta.

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