Aryna Sabalenka made her way into the semi-finals of the US Open for the third straight season. The second seed defeated Qinwen Zheng 6-1, 6-3 in 73 minutes in their quarter-final match-up on Wednesday afternoon. Sabalenka came out of the blocks with blistering intensity.
She didn’t give any time to Zheng to settle into the proceedings and in what seemed like a blink of an eye, had secured a double-break lead to go up 5-0 in the set. Watching the higher-ranked player dominate the 23rd seed, it felt as though the third quarter-final in New York City, too, would follow suit as the first two, played on Tuesday.
In other words, it felt as if Sabalenka, too, would post a 6-0 score in the opening set over her Chinese opponent. In the end, Zheng did manage to buck this trend and was able to finally find some pace for herself to thwart what seemed like a foregone conclusion – of Sabalenka clinching the first set.
As the match wore on, Sabalenka wasn’t able to score as many free points on her serve as she’d done at its start. Zheng also steadied her serve and was finally able to win three games in a row. Sabalenka eventually breached Zheng’s serve in the seventh game although she did have a small struggle of her own when it came to consolidating the break.
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In the eighth game, Sabalenka, who’d not hit a double fault in the match until then, began the game with a double fault. She did recover from the lapse quickly enough and brought up two game points for herself.
However, a second double fault in the game brought Zheng close to try and probe for a break-back point. But that was the end of Sabalenka’s inconsistency in that game and she closed out the game to keep Zheng on the backfoot.
In the end, in the 10th game while serving for the match, a third double fault threatened to rattle Sabalenka’s composure once again. But the world no. 1 fended off any worry she might’ve had and even closed out the match on the first match point she had on her serve, courtesy of a forced error off her opponent’s backhand wing.
Of the 26 first-serve points she put in play, Sabalenka won 23. She also won eight of nine points at the net. In comparison, Zheng won 12 of 19 first-serve points. Sabalenka’s return game was also superior as she won 20 of 46 points on return.
Zheng could win only nine of 45 points played on return on Sabalenka’s serve. Looking to reach the final of the US Open for the first time in her career, Aryna Sabalenka awaits either ninth seed Marketa Vondrousova or 17th seed Madison Keys.
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