Indian Wells: Sabalenka crushes Gauff; Tiafoe downs Norrie
IMAGE: Aryna Sabalenka hits a shot as she defeats Coco Gauff in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells. Photograph: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters
Aryna Sabalenka put on a serving masterclass to crush American Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-0 on Wednesday and reach the semi-finals at Indian Wells, where she will face seventh seed Maria Sakkari.
The Australian Open champion never faced a break point and used her hard and accurate serve to dispatch Gauff.
Sabalenka appears to have put her past struggles with double faults firmly behind her, not committing a single one against Gauff, while pounding down five aces and winning 87% of her first serves.
Gauff quickly fell 2-0 down in the first set and was unable to match the Belarusian’s level despite playing well.
Second seed Sabalenka kept her foot on the gas to dominate the second set despite the California crowd’s attempts to urge on the sixth-seeded Gauff.
“I knew you guys wanted to send me home,” a smiling Sabalenka told the crowd in an on-court interview.
“Thank you everyone for coming and supporting us, mostly her, but us. The atmosphere was unbelievable. I don’t want to leave. I want to stay here as long as I can.”
Later on Wednesday, Greek Sakkari fought back from a set down to beat 15th-seeded Czech Petra Kvitova 4-6, 7-5, 6-1.
Kvitova got off to a flying start, breaking twice to take a 5-2 lead. Sakkari then won back-to-back games, but Kvitova managed to hold serve under pressure to take the first set.
The two-time Wimbledon champion broke in the first game of the second set, but a string of double faults let her opponent back into the match.
Sakkari squared the set at 3-3 before once again taking advantage of Kvitova’s shaky serve to force a decider.
Sakkari, last year’s runner-up, broke twice in the third set before serving out to win the match in two hours and 15 minutes.
“It is (one of the best comebacks in my career), not only because I was down a set and a break but because she made me play like an amateur in the first set,” she said.
“I tried to play as physically as possible, and all I can say is that I need a pedicure now, because my feet are bleeding so badly.”
Tiafoe downs Norrie to set up Medvedev showdown at Indian Wells
IMAGE: Francis Tiafoe after defeating Cameron Norrie. Photograph: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters
American Frances Tiafoe beat Britain’s Cameron Norrie 6-4, 6-4 at Indian Wells on Wednesday to reach his first Masters 1000 semi-final where he will face Daniil Medvedev after the red-hot Russian dispatched Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-3, 7-5.
After a rare rain delay halted play in the match’s early stages, Tiafoe whipped a forehand crosscourt winner to break Norrie for a 4-3 lead.
The dynamic Tiafoe, who fed off the energy of the supportive crowd, then pressured Norrie into an error on set point by coming into the net.
Tiafoe saw his double break second-set lead whittled down to one when he double faulted at 5-3.
But he managed to serve out the match on his next opportunity, unleashing a 139 mile per hour (224 km per hour) ace to set up match point before ending the affair when Norrie’s forehand sailed long.
“I truly feel like when I’m there mentally, I’m one of the best players in the world,” Tiafoe said.
The loss snapped Norrie’s eight-match winning streak. The tournament’s 2021 champion won a title in Rio de Janeiro last month and has a 21-4 win-loss record for the year.
“Today it is not just about getting to the semis, I am happy to beat a guy like that, who has been playing so well.”
“At the end it got a little tricky, but it was pretty much one-way traffic and I am really happy with where my game is at,” Tiafoe said.
He has yet to drop a set at the tournament in the Southern California desert. He reached the semis of last year’s U.S. Open where he fell to eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz.
Tiafoe will have his work cut out for him on Saturday when he faces the fifth-seeded Medvedev, who extended his winning streak to 18 matches with his victory over Davidovich Fokina in the breezy afternoon session.
Medvedev raced out to a 3-0 first set lead and crushed an ace to capture the opener as Davidovich Fokina searched for answers.
In the more competitive second set Medvedev, who had injured his ankle in his previous match, required attention from a trainer to tape his bloody right thumb but the bandage did not hinder his shotmaking.
His speedy defense helped him break Davidovich Fokina at love for a 6-5 lead and he smacked a unreturnable serve on match point in the next game to keep his hopes of a fourth consecutive title alive.
Medvedev is 4-0 against U.S. Open semifinalist Tiafoe but they have not faced each other since the 2021 Miami Open.
“He’s playing great,” Medvedev said of Tiafoe.
“Frances is a very pumped up, fire player, so he can beat anyone on a good day. I’m sure he can beat Novak (Djokovic), Rafa (Nadal). He actually did beat Rafa at the U.S. Open, which is huge.
“I need to try my best to keep this head-to-head at zero. That’s never easy but I just have to show my best tennis and try to beat such a great opponent.”
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