Berlin: Coco Gauff survives scare, Elena Rybakina sets up QF versus ex-No. 1

Gauff and Rybakina enjoyed a victorious afternoon on Thursday in Berlin.

by Dzevad Mesic
Berlin: Coco Gauff survives scare, Elena Rybakina sets up QF versus ex-No. 1
© Getty Images Sport - Boris Streubel

Coco Gauff survived a scare against Ekaterina Alexandrova to kick off her grass season in Berlin with a win, while Elena Rybakina got the job done in two sets to set up a round-of-16 meeting in the German capital against a former world No. 1. 

Gauff, who is the top-seeded in Berlin this week and had a first-round bye, faced three consecutive set points in the first set but still managed to seal a two-set 7-6 (6) 6-2 win over world No. 20 Alexandrova to reach the Berlin quarterfinal. 

Early in the match, it was a tight contest but Gauff managed to overcome Alexandrova in straight sets and improve to 3-1 versus the Russian. Gauff, who was a Berlin semifinalist in her tournament debut in 2022, plays in the quarterfinal against the winner of the match between three-time Grand Slam finalist Ons Jabeur and rising Czech star Linda Noskova.

Coco Gauff
Coco Gauff © Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

Meanwhile. No. 3 seed Rybakina also didn't really have an easy job in the office, but just like Gauff, she was able to earn a two-set win after beating world No. 35 Veronika Kudermetova 6-4 7-5. Against qualifier Kudermetova - who won three matches before clashing Rybakina - the Kazakh needed an hour and 35 minutes to seal the win. 

In the Berlin quarterfinal, Rybakina will be taking on former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, who defeated Zeynep Sonmez in the round-of-16. Against Azarenka, Rybakina has a 4-0 head-to-head record but the Kazakh certainly won't take the Belarusian two-time Grand Slam champion for granted. 

How Gauff overcame Alexandrova?

When the match started, Gauff missed out on her first break point in the fourth game but managed to get the first break of the match two games later to go 4-2 up. But just when it seemed that Gauff found a way to break Alexandrova's game, the Russian got the break back in the seventh game. 

As no more break points were seen, the first set went into a tie-break - where Alexandrova took a 6-3 to clinch three consecutive set points. In those moments, it appeared that Alexandrova would complete a big comeback and steal the first set from Gauff. But then, the top-seeded American responded by winning the next five points and taking the first set in a very impressive way but also a very devastating way for Alexandrova.

As it happens in tennis, Alexandrova absolutely collapsed after losing the first set in such a heartbreaking way as Gauff broke the Russian in the third and seventh games of the second set to complete a two-set win.

Coco Gauff
Coco Gauff © Getty Images Sport - Boris Streubel

How Rybakina saw off Kudermetova?

Rybakina got off to a pretty fast start to the match, breaking Kudermetova early for a 3-0 lead. A couple of games later, Rybakina missed out on two break points in the sixth game to go up by a double break and then failed to serve out for the first set in the ninth game. However, Rybakina didn't panic in those moments as she remained calm and broke Kudermetova in the 10th game - the game in which the Russian was serving to stay in the first set - to still clinch the opener.

After losing the first set in a devastating and heartbreaking way, Kudermetova impressively started the second set by breaking Rybakina in the first game of the set. However, Rybakina kept controlling everything on the court, and after missing out on two break points in the fourth game, the third-seeded Kazakh managed to get the break back in the sixth game and tie the second set to three games apiece. 

After trading breaks through the first six games of the second set, not a single break point was seen in the next five games as Rybakina led 6-5 after the opening 11 games of the second set. But when the time came for Kudermetova to serve to stay in the match, Rybakina earned her first match points - and completed a two-set win after realizing her fourth match point in the 12th game.

Elena Rybakina
Elena Rybakina © Getty Images Sport - Inaki Esnaola

For Rybakina - who celebrated her 25th birthday on Monday - this was her first match on grass in 2024. 

“I was waiting for this match for a long time. Thank you for coming. I’m really happy to be back on grass," Rybakina said.

Although the 25-year-old Kazakh managed to get the job done in two sets, she acknowledged that former world No. 9 Kudermetova wasn't an easy rival. 

"I think in the key moments I served a little bit better and some better decisions here and there. But it was a close match," Rybakina said.

Coco Gauff Elena Rybakina